Tuesday, February 28, 2012

THE RACE: Sideline or Finish Line? Which Will You Choose?

I won't claim that I came up with question "sideline or finish line" on my own.  I was sitting behind a bus today and the ad on the back of the bus asked that question in reference to something else, although I have no idea what the ad was for.  But it triggered a question for me:  How often in life do we pick sitting on the sideline over trying to reach the finish line?

One definition for "the sidelines" is "a situation in which you watch something that is happening but are not involved in it or cannot influence it."  A "finish line," as we all know, is a line indicating the location of the finish of a race."

Sitting on the sidelines...

Striving for the finish line.

Sometimes we're forced to sit on the sidelines...like when we're sidelined by an injury.  And sometimes we choose to sit literally on the sidelines in a productive, rather than passive manner, to cheer on someone else striving to reach the finish line.  But a lot of times, we voluntarily sideline ourselves by deciding we could never even make it to the finish line.  

I saw a guy at the pool today who's doing his first Ironman in May in St. George, Utah.  He said that he was doing the Boston Marathon three weeks before the Ironman, and that he hoped to qualify for Kona at St. George.  What a slacker.  I then proceeded to pee in the water next to him and splash him with my kickboard.  

I was talking to my boyfriend and I said "Only in my wildest (actually I said wettest) dreams would I hope to do Boston Marathon, Ironman, and qualify for Kona in the same year."  Maybe if I took a couple years to really work on my run, I could have a chance at qualifying for Boston.  But I'm pretty confident that I'll never qualify for Kona.  

Then I was sitting behind that bus a little while later, and it hit me:  I'd sidelined myself before even trying to get to the finish line.  

Let's be clear, realistically, even if I quit my day job, I'm probably never going to qualify for Kona.  And I'm ok with that.  That's one sideline I'd be more than happy just to sit on and just cheer other people on.  But Boston could be - with a lot of hard work - something I could at least strive for.  Maybe I never actually qualify - but maybe that's not the point.  

Instead, maybe the point isn't that you reach the particular finish line, but that you at least try for that finish line in the sky.  What's the worst thing that could happen if I were to train for, but not qualify for, Boston?  Assuming I don't overtrain and get an injury, the worst that could happen is that I'd become a faster, better runner.  Maybe even place in my age group at some races.  And what's wrong with that?  Isn't that, in and of itself, a finish line?  Sometimes we get so wrapped up in that one particular finish line we have in mind, that we forgot to account for all the other finish lines that we crossed just in trying to reach that bigger goal.  

In my worklife, I never doubt my abilities.  I'm slightly delusional that way.  (A delusional attorney, go figure).  But I always think that I can somehow win my case.  And I'm truly surprised when I don't....when I can't convince a judge or opposing counsel of my view, I'm in utter disbelief.  This actually has made me a better attorney, because I don't give up and I explore every available option.

So why is that I don't have the same kind of delusional optimism when it comes to my physical abilities?  I think it has to do with the fact that endurance sports provide a specific measure of our current abilities.  We know exactly how fast we are on a given day, how fast we'd need to be to qualify for something, and how fast we are compared to everyone else.  So when you feel like your performance won't stack up to level you need, it's easy to pass judgment on what we think our future abilities will be and to say "there's no way I'll ever..."  

By intentionally sidelining yourself, you hold yourself back.  You put yourself in a situation where something is happening, but you're not involved. Other people are moving toward their goals and dreams, and you're sitting on the sidelines with your beer and pom-poms.  So what if you don't qualify for Boston - set it as a goal and see how close you get.  Then watch all the other finish lines fly by as you're trying...

I've said it before and I'll say it again...I never thought I'd run a 5k.  Never thought I'd run a marathon.  Never thought I'd do an Ironman.  I've now had to eat those words.  Maybe someday I'll have to eat the words "I'll never quality for the Boston Marathon."  And even if I don't, I bet I get to the rest of my finish lines a lot faster than I would have otherwise...

When have you put yourself on the sidelines?  


Anonymous said...


Carilyn said...

You're an attorney too? No wonder I like you! I'm not practicing right now, but it sounds like we have so much in common. And I loved the line about peeing in the water and splashing with the kickboard - too funny!

Life Through Endurance said...

Thanks, Carilyn...Yeah there must be something about us attorneys! I envy you not practicing right now...maybe in another life I'll do that!

And thanks mom...you can bring your pom-poms to watch me anytime!

Jen said...

I have been thinking about this post since yesterday. You make such an excellent point about holding ourself back. I do this, *especially* with running. Thank you for this post, I needed to read it. Twice.

Life Through Endurance said...

Hey Jen...thanks for your kind words! It's so nice to know that it hit home with you...I have a feeling just from your posts and your blog that you could really let 'er rip, on and off the race course! So don't hold back!