Commit To Competing

By Mario Fraioli

Whether or not you want to believe Ethiopian Guye Adola’s claim that he found out he was running the Berlin Marathon just four days before posting the fastest debut in history, you can’t help but respect him for racing Eliud Kipchoge head-to-head and not worrying about the fact that he was running world-record pace alongside the best marathoner in the world in an event he’d never previously contested. “Anyway, they kept telling us we were five or six seconds outside the time (world record pace),” Adola told Michael Crawley for letsrun.com, “so I decided not to worry about it.” 

Plenty of runners would do well by taking a page out of Adola’s book: Stop worrying about whether or not you’re on pace and just commit to competing. All too often, runners are ruled by the clock and drive themselves crazy chasing splits from race to race. If this is you, forget about the watch next time out and try chasing (or running away from) your fellow competitors instead. Find your race. Roll the dice once or twice. Make a move. Respond to one. See what happens. You might fail. But then again you might not. Either way, you’ll learn something valuable. Heck, you might even surprise yourself like Adola did and run faster than you or anyone else ever possible. Racing involves risking: if you’re not going to take one, why bother stepping on the start line in the first place?

+ I got a kick out of reading that Ethiopians don’t even bother mentioning the hour when talking about a runner’s marathon time. While some might view the omission as pretentious, there’s something special about such a designation that helps define the unique culture of the sport in that country. “The ‘two hours’ is assumed,” Crawley writes at the beginning of the same piece I linked to above. “You’re an ‘and three’ or an ‘and ten’ runner. It was a few months before I realized that when people were talking about me, they were saying I was an ‘and nine’ runner, generously removing 10 minutes from my marathon time to save face in fast company.”

A version of this post first appeared in the morning shakeout, my weekly email newsletter covering running, writing, media and other topics that interest me. If you’d like for it to land in your inbox first thing on Tuesday mornings, subscribe here.