Courage

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Over the past few years I have done quite a few distance races. At each race at a minimum I get a new race shirt. I browse the expanse of vendor booths set up at the expo and might pick up a few more things. From when I started running to now, I’ve had to develop a new strategy for shopping at the expo. When first started running, I wanted everything and my shopping reflected that. I would pick up far more than what I needed. The result, my dresser drawers are bursting with shirts, shorts, and other running gear. Now I go into an expo knowing what I need to pick up and quickly breeze by the other booths on my way to the necessary stops like packet pick up. It’s been a pretty successful strategy.

 

This year at the Disney Princess Marathon expo, I knew the places I wanted to hit, Official Merchandise, Sweaty Bands, Packet Pick Up and we were going to done. As I was cruising past the vendor booths I spotted a shirt that jumped out at me. Jim had decided to check out sunglasses so I double backed to really check it out.

 

It was a Kelly green shirt with the word courage printed on the front. The back of the shirt was a definition of courage that really resonated with me because it read, “to persevere with humility” and “falling in love with the person you were meant to be”.

 

Courage was word in my vocabulary but it wasn’t that important to me until I started working with the Navy. I am Coast Guard, and about a year and a half ago I started working with the Navy at their Senior Enlisted Academy. The core values for the Navy are Honor, Courage, and Commitment. During each class we discuss what the core values mean to the students. Listening to the students definitions made me really explore what courage means to me.

 

In the military, the word courage is often synonymous with courage in battle. Showing bravery when the enemy is near. While that is an important facet of the word, for me courage is much more than physical courage.

 

My definition of courage is still evolving, but here is what I believe courage is. Courage is when you are not afraid to be vulnerable, totally exposed to criticism. Courage is putting it on the line, risking it all (especially when the outcome is uncertain). Courage is trying something new. Courage is doing something that others tell you it is stupid. Courage is staying true to you. Courage is looking for the truth, even when the truth isn’t pretty. Courage is doing what you believe is right and not about always being right. Courage is treating everyone with respect, even the people many others don’t want to see. Courage is standing up to bullies.

 

Fellow Flowers (http://fellowflowers.com) makes this shirt. Their story is just as inspiring as the t-shirts. In 2011 a group of women started training for a half marathon together. Over the course of their training, they discovered that running is much more than just running; it is a journey of mental and physical struggles. It is a journey where you face your own fears and adversity and hopefully in the end, when you cross the finish line you will have learned something that you can apply in other areas of your life.

 

My courage shirt is now one of my favorite shirts because it reminds me what courage means to me. But more importantly it reminds me to live my life in a courageous way. Now if Fellow Flowers would only make a shirt defining honor and commitment, then I would have a complete set of Navy core value shirts.

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Why am I Competing?

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When was 5, I started playing team sports. My mom signed me up for soccer. I don’t think I was any good, but it was the start of my love affair with team sports and competition. I added basketball, volleyball, to my team sports repertoire and even tried softball once but never really took to it. I loved the camaraderie of being on a team. I also really liked competing and winning as part of a team.

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Most of the teams I played on were competitive, but weren’t necessarily very good. It didn’t change the fact that as a team we wanted to win. The times we won we would celebrate and the times we lost we would commiserate and assess what we did wrong. The best way I can explain this is winning is fun and losing just sucks.

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While I have a great appreciation for competition. There is a downside; it can spill over into other areas of your life. Competition does not work well in relationships, surfing, parenting, and some aspects of work. Of course I don’t think I was overly competitive in areas outside of sport, but I will leave that up for my family and friends to decide.

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Setting how competitive I was aside, I would rather focus on how I learned to curb my competitiveness (which has had a few drawbacks like not being as competitive as I would like in my volleyball league). I shifted my focus away from competition when I started running.

 

This might sound ironic because running a race is a competition. There is a clear winner. The first person to cross the line wins, and everyone else is put on a list so you can see just how you stacked up against the other racers.

 

I admit when I first started running I would size up my competition at the start line. There were a few things I learned. I am not very good at determining who is a fast or slow runner. Size, shape, and age don’t give many good clues to speed. The other thing I learned (and this was really reinforced when I moved to New England) is most other runners are much faster then me. It was rather humbling finding out I was just okay at running. I loved the running community and wanted to continue to participate in it so I had to reassess and shift my focus.

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To be a runner it couldn’t be about being fast. Instead my focus was enjoying the sport. It wasn’t about competition it was about relieving stress and being in the moment. And one of my favorite things about running is sharing it with other people. There are few things I enjoy more than running with someone on their first race. I get so much enjoyment out of seeing someone achieve a goal of crossing the start and finish line of a run.

 

While I would really love to win a race (or at least my age group), if winning a race were my goal, I would have quit running a long time ago.