It Only Means What It Means to You: On the Question of Staying for Awards

Steve and I are right about in the middle of the screen.
Steve and I are right about in the middle of the screen.

Saturday, I ran a local 10K race with some USC kids — though I don’t think they like it when I call them “kids” — and my roommate, Natalie. I won (out of the women, duh), which isn’t really a normal occurrence for me at 10Ks. And, that’s great. It is. I fought for it when the girl in second passed me at halfway and I had to come back on her. Coming back on someone is never easy. Dropping everything I had the last two miles, especially on such a massively hilly course, wasn’t easy either.

But, it was just a race I ran to see where I was at. Arguably, if Steve hadn’t run it with me, I would have bailed out mentally. Arguably, I did bail out somewhat mentally. I don’t know that I ran the absolute hardest I could the whole time. So, it’s not as if I was incredibly impressed with or proud of my effort or of the work that went into it. I was happy with how I did, given everything lately, and that was that.

The question, then, once you’re done cooling down and changing into dry clothes and getting a post-race massage and hanging out, is: Should you stay for awards?

I don’t want to be a dick — in fact, that’s been a November resolution of mine — and I, certainly, don’t want to disrespect anyone’s effort who was behind me. If they ran their hardest and they’re happy with their work, then they should be proud of that, regardless of any other runner out there. But, after over an hour of hanging out, I also just wanted to go home. I had slept four hours the night before and was so tired. And, I had driven down with Natalie and didn’t want to waste her time. I don’t need a plaque. I don’t care about getting a plaque. It wouldn’t mean anything to me, because it wouldn’t be reflective of anything I had put in to get there. How I ran is how I ran, regardless of a medal or a trophy. And, the rewards are only as valuable as they are to you personally.

Eventually, I designated a USC kid to pretend to be me and we went home. But, I kept thinking about that.

Steve told me once that I should always stay for awards because soon I won’t win anything anymore. That’s probably true. But, whether it’s true or not, that can’t make winning mean something to me. The only thing that can make something matter is if it matters to you.

I’m sure there were some people out there running that 10K (or the half-marathon or the 5K) who had trained hard for it and put everything out there to do the best they could. If they ran slower than I did that doesn’t change the fact that they should be more excited about their race than I was about mine. I’ve also done races where I’ve lost to friends who were, at the same time, upset about how slow they went — minutes and minutes faster than me.

One of the trickiest things about races is that, even though you race to race and you want to beat the other people out there, you can only really compare yourself within the spectrum of yourself. And, there’s nothing wrong with that. Me not staying for awards shouldn’t change the fact that someone else loves their award. And, if I work insanely hard and manage to podium in my age group at the L.A. Marathon, my pride shouldn’t change just because I know people who will run 20 minutes faster and be bummed. It only means what it means to you.

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