Before, during and after yesterday’s race I encountered lots of faces from my past, back in the days when I raced twice a month as opposed to twice a year. When I was obsessed with personal bests and trying to run faster than supposed friends on the race circuit. It was a period of my life when the ego reigned supreme and my vanity and selfishness outweighed all other considerations in my life.
I was glad to see some friendly faces and posed for photos with people I hadn’t seen in months, if not years. I was made to feel welcome and wanted in a community I walked away from for the sake of my family and sanity. Long hours away from home travelling to and from races were just as damaging to my private life as long hours in the pub or with my nose buried in the rabbit hole that was social media.
Others I avoided. The throngs of running clubs. Decent folk I’m sure but the way they grinned for group selfies, buzzed round their club gazebos and gathered for very public mass warm ups left me uncomfortable and anxious. You see, that used to be me, and try as I might to not think that way, it created feelings of resentment and distaste. These folk were screaming for attention, look at us everyone.
I know for I used to be one of them. We looked down our noses at ‘recreational runners’ who weren’t attached to a club as we were better, faster, more committed. The fact that many of these ‘lesser’ runners could have beaten me on one leg was immaterial. I wore a club top and was part of a tribe, the running scene. The past was staring me in the face and I wasn’t dealing with it particularly well.
At one point yesterday, at around the two mile mark, I felt someone clip my heel at a congested part of the course. It was accidental but I heard a loud tut and a harsh voice complaining about the lack of running space. I felt my hackles rise as a person I used to know very well breezed past me, without a sideways glance. I’m not even sure they saw me but they were decked head to toe in running club regalia.
I was a nobody to them, just a slowcoach getting in their way. I wasn’t matching their pace or wearing club colours. I wasn’t a proper runner to them, just some sad, middle aged jogger who wasn’t fit to lace their shoes. I was tempted to respond but bit my lip and said nothing, content to focus on my own race and plod along at a steady, but unspectacular space. I later learnt this person completed the course 13 minutes faster than me.
The old me would have been furious at this but I simply nodded, when informed, and said ‘well done them.’ We cannot avoid our pasts at times, they have a nasty habit of popping up at the most inconvenient of times. What we can do, though, is choose how we react to them. We can become annoyed, aggravated and angry; we can nibble the bait that dangles in front of us. It’s so easy to slip back into our old ways isn’t it?
Or we can rise above it, take the hit, and choose to move forwards as opposed to succumbing to the voices and faces from years gone by. They do not define who we are or who we want to be. They are signposts to avoid, we need to take the road less traveled. You are better than that. The past is fuel, channel it’s negativity and transform that into a positive force that will spur you forward and not drag you back.
I’m so over my past. Are you?