why are you here?
… or what I learned at the Ottawa Spartan Beast 2013
Consider all the things we tell ourselves and others at a race:
- I just want to finish.
- I am not racing today.
- I’m not really doing this for time.
- I don’t care about my time.
- I just do this for fun.
- I’m not feeling this race.
- I just want my Trifecta. I just want my second (third, thirty seventh) Trifecta.
- This race is boring.
- This race is too long.
- This race is too short.
- I hate running. Why can’t we just do obstacles?
- I hate obstacles? Why can’t we just run?
- I’m just not in the right space, you know what I mean?
- I just do this for training for [insert a bigger badder race here].
- I haven’t been training for this at all.
- I suck.
- You rock.
- I rock.
- You suck.
- I’m (just) doing this with my boyfriend. Girlfriend. Mom. Boss.
- I’m injured.
- My back hurts. My head hurts. My face is on fire.
- I pulled a muscle in my groin.
- I have chronic knee issues.
- I’m no good on the uphill. Downhill. Flats.
- I’m no good.
- I’ll be way behind you.
- I’m so much slower than you.
- You are so much faster than me.
- You’ll be ahead of me the whole time.
- I’m going to try and keep up with you.
- I’m not even going to try and keep up with you.
Whaaa…. Whaaaaa… WHAAAAAA…
Instead, consider a simple question:
Why are you here?
What are you here to do? What is your primary goal?
I am here to place. I am here to be in top 10 for my age category. I am here to make podium. I am here to win the race.
Yes, speed will indeed be very important.
But what if it’s something else?
I am here to have fun. I am here to support a friend. I am here to see my friends.
WHY ARE YOU HERE?
This existential question came out of one of my conversations with a fellow racer. At the start line, he was worried that he was going to be “too slow”.
“Too slow for what?”, I asked.
He wasn’t sure.
“Why are you here?”, was my follow-up question.
“Because I want to finish this race and earn my Trifecta”.
“Are you worried about being so slow they’d pull you off the course before you can finish?”
And just like that… Perspective.
The Ottawa Spartan Beast 2013 kicked me in the teeth. Hard. I dragged and dragged.
[Although you wouldn’t say that looking at this picture… It looks like I’m actually running! Talented photographer.]
I’ve been waiting for my official results, so I could report exactly how pathetic my performance was. You know. Compared to men, women, stuffed bears, and injured homeless dogs on course. Unfortunately, this time around the Spartan Race statistics yet again refused to acknowledge my existence. You’ll have to take my word for it.
During the race that question: “Why are you here?” did not occur to me. And even if it did, I wouldn’t know how to answer it. After sitting out the Toronto Beast, I was still injured, and the trails simply would not end. We climbed a mountain just to descend, and then to climb it all over again.
The answer came unexpectedly.
After finishing, I find Matt at the finish line, and together we join forces in waiting for his wife, and my friend and client. I’ve been coaching Krista for this race for the past three months. Ottawa Beast 2012 is her only DNF, and it’s redemption time.
Minutes. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
An hour goes by. We make small talk and avoid the topic of Krista with enviable determination. Eventually, one of us breaks.
I sneak off to the medical tent, asking if many people dropped out. “Actually, we are doing really well this year”, the medics say.
“Are you sweeping the course already?”
“Yes. We are sweeping behind the last runner.”
“So, you are not pulling anyone off course because they are not making a certain time?”
Ok. I sigh a breath of relief. All she has to do is put one foot in front of the other. We have talked about this. The only reason to quit would be injury. Everything else is – suck it up, buttercup. Blisters will heal, and even if gels run out, you will not die of starvation from few hours without fuel.
Matt and I fidget some more. We take pictures. We hang off the rig.
Suddenly, we see a familiar face – a fellow racer reports that Krista is about twenty minutes behind. In one piece. [Thanks, Sam!]
The sense of relief is physical. It spreads from the top of my head down my spine. I think I even stop sweating.
Finally, a smiling face emerges from the bushes. Krista looks tired, but strong.
My heart jumps into my throat and almost chokes me. There are few more obstacles. She attempts the rig, falls off the rings, and starts to bang out burpees. Methodically. Cheerfully.
After the rig, it’s a short walk down the stream, through a tunnel and off to the slippery wall. As Krista heads towards the stream, Matt and I are running towards the finish, desperately avoiding looking at each other. My vision is still blurry. Must be something in the air. I sneak an awkward paw swipe to smear the clear liquid exuding from my eyes. Out of the corner of my eye, I see that Matt does the same.
As Matt trails behind shooting pictures on the go, I sprint over to the finish line and jump over the divider, nearly scaring the pretty gladiator girls. I approach one of them, handing out medals. “Could I please have one?” I say, out of breath. There is someone I really need to give this to.
Meanwhile, Krista is already lowering herself on the rope, and heading towards the finish. I stand on the other side, and hold the medal in front of me.
As Krista crosses the finish line, I place the hard-earned medal around her neck. We embrace in a tight hug.
Stupid bodily fluids.
It’s one of my happiest racing moments. And it’s not even my racing moment.
Today my race did not matter. The hills did not matter. The pace did not matter.
I know why I am here.
I am here to watch Krista cross the finish line. To finish the Ottawa Beast. To get her Trifecta.
I am here for someone else.
P.S. Should have given you the sapfest warning, huh?