Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Contentment and The Competitor

Do you ever think to yourself, "If I win a race, I'll be happy."?

Or, "I can PR and then I'll be happy."

Maybe you are just a little more subtle than that... so while you are racing, you think to yourself, "If I can just beat the girl in that pink sparkle skirt..."

It could also be that you just want to cross the finish line after X amount of miles.
Sometimes it can be a bit like Aesop's dog-- except it's that PR you are after. If I get too greedy, I start back at speed work too soon after a hard race and wind up with a mysterious injury.
And even if you aren't into racing, maybe you care about recording data in a running log. Even training can become competitive. I personally try NOT to get into that kind of competition.

I am here to promise you that NO matter how GREAT that race goes, who you beat, how fast you finished it, or how far it was, there will ALWAYS be
       faster

               farther

                    and ...    more challenging


So, where do you find contentment?

Where does anyone find happiness in a target that is constantly moving? 

Where is that perfect place to rest in your ability and effort? 

These are thoughts I struggle with. But to be very honest, I don't struggle with them much during a race, when I am simply trying to finish ahead of the next person. (Physically maybe, but not mentally.) You'll never catch me thinking "Oh, I should let her finish before me".

It's afterwards that I look back over the performance and analyze, critique and evaluate if I did my best, and decide if I can be content with what transpired.

But if I am ever content with my performance, it's not for long. That's how I am wired.  Actually, I think that's how ALL humans are wired, especially competitive-runner-women.
Does the love of competition conflict with living a godly life? I am not sure.


The Bible says that we should aim for contentment.
1Timothy 6: But godliness with contentment is great gain.
The Bible also gives direction to how to find contentment.
Philippians 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
We all have a longing for eternity that is unquenchable. This longing is the source of all our striving, and desire for contentment. It can only truly be quenched when we are at one with the Lord.  
Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 
It doesn't seem possible to be fully at-one with the Lord (and complete) at all times here on earth.  So in essence- as long as we are running on this side of heaven, we will not find a permanent state of contentment. The BEST we can do is to find satisfaction in our efforts and spend time with the Lord:
- in prayer/communication with him
-or actively worshiping him (music, etc..)
-or (and this is the part I struggle with) by modeling ourselves to be more like Him, loving and serving others and holding others needs above our own. Self-sacrifice.
I look to examples like Jeff Galloway and Eric Liddell for inspiration. They will be remembered not simply for their great athletic ability, but for making a choice to invest themselves into others. I believe they understood where to find true and lasting contentment.

 Galloway, coach and motivational speaker once said in an interview with marathontalk.com that a turning point for his life was when he chose to pace another runner for a spot on the Olympic team.  At trials, he dropped out of a race he might have qualified in. Since then, he has spent the better portion of his life putting his skills and life experience into helping others.

 Liddell is best known for his choosing not to race his specialty on the sabbath, but then going on to Olympic victory in a distance he was not trained for. What is brushed over in the movie Chariots of Fire, is that he left his career as a runner to serve as a missionary in China during WWII and died in a Japanese camp after sharing the gospel.

It's time to begin a new chapter in my running story.

It's a chapter full of excitement and heartbreak, wins and losses, LOTS of growth. Maybe even some contentment. :) I am taking some new risks where the reward will be to see others find success.
Hope to do some running soon with this neighbor: a go-getter, and a grade school 1500M district champion.
 The tops of my shoes are going to get dirty.  But that's a good thing. It means I am spending more time in prayer. With His help, all things are possible.

53 comments:

  1. From the depths -- I thank you for sharing this post and reminding me of what is important.

    Looking forward to reading about your new chapters.

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    1. Thanks C2 :) Just reminding myself more than anything.

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  2. To coach/teach a child is the greatest of all gifts. 3 years ago, my scrappy little track team made it to State, first time in school history. Honest to goodness, I cried that day. It was truly amazing. It topped many PRs I've gotten, and even topped races I've won.

    Any sacrifice you make will be well worth it. I promise. :)

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    1. I would be in tears too! I think your XC team knows they have a good thing in you too. :)

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  3. Love this post!!! For me, finding contentment in running while chasing goals is possible by enjoying the journey, being happy with my best effort, and seeing and being grateful for ALL of the blessings my life is filled with (running related and all my many blessings that have nothing to do with running). While I am striving to improve in my running, I am content and happy right now. I enjoy my training, I enjoy racing, and I am so very happy in the life I share with my husband and kids (and others). :)

    I love that you are coaching! I am just finishing up my certification and am excited to start coaching as well. I started a couple of months ago and am very excited. I have helped several new runners quite a bit but it will be fun to officially be a coach! Best of luck to you. I know you are going to be a WONDERFUL coach and a blessing to many!!!!

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    1. Thanks for sharing all this Erin. Didn't realized you were coaching!

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  4. You brought me to tears! You are such a blessing to me in so many ways and I am so beyond grateful for you! I have thanked God daily this last week for showing me that you were "the one" I needed in my life. I am so beyond excited to learn from you and grow on so many levels with you by my side. You are going to continue to be such a blessing to any and all who come across your path. I am incredibly proud to call you Coach. I am touched, and deeply honored to have you in my life and will always show you the gratitude and appreciation you so very much deserve! Love you to pieces and so looking forward to this journey! XOXOXOX

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    1. I am equally honored to have you and can't wait to see where things go from here. Thank you for following your heart and asking me to step out of my comfort zone.

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  5. What a great group of words this post was!! I'm not generally too into the numbers/stats/methods of running, but I'm TOTALLY into the people we meet while running :D And>>>that's why this post spoke to me today!!

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  6. This is beautiful! I think we can find contentment and rest in the everyday knowledge that we are doing our best...whatever that is. Thank you for sharing this and I love the devotion portions too...maybe in addition to being a coach you can compile some of your posts into a runner's devotional book...I'd buy it!

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    1. Thanks Jen! Funny- I was just emailed about a biblical half-marathon plan. Maybe there is a market for runners devotionals too.

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  7. So excited to see where this new chapter is leading you to... I struggle with contentment as a runner every day. You'd think that a PR or victory would bring that but like you stated- it doesn't. We just want more. Thanks for sharing this. I know that I personally needed to read those verses today! :-)

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    1. Thanks Tia. I know you can identify. We all struggle. Just glad I have my foundation and rock to turn to.

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  8. Awesome, Raina!

    I was watching a documentary on Showtime about the 1984 Olympics this weekend; it featured Jackie Joyner Kersey. She is one of the most amazing female athletes in history. During an interview, she said the accomplishment she was proud of most in her life was that she could make a difference in the lives of children that come from her hometown of East St. Louis. I thought that was amazing considering all of her amazing accomplishments.

    Best of luck to you with coaching!

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    1. Could I say amazing one more time?

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    2. And I spelled "Kersee" wrong. DANG!

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    3. Thanks for the application here. It's just more evidence that no matter what level you reach, the most fulfilling things are in giving to/sharing with others.

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    4. You are allowed to misspell on my blog. You got the degree! :)

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  9. It will be fun to read more about your new chapter!

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    1. Hope you enjoy it, Tina. :)

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  10. This is such a timely post for me, Raina! I was bummed about a race this weekend, but realized it was silly to let time goals play such a factor in my contentment with racing! I definitely enjoy the competitive-racing energy, but also believe that what makes running meaningful is when we can share it with others, and use it to build each other up, as you pointed out. Thank you! :)

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    1. Glad it was helpful for you, Laura. I will have to go check out your race report. I know you have been seeing some big improvements lately.

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  11. Nice post! In the big picture, our athletic achievements mean nothing, but they can be used as a tool. I'm not good with Bible verses, but do talk training with a few people at our church.

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    1. I enjoy a good post-church run-chat, too Mike :)

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  12. Hi Raina! I am new to your blog. I got the opportunity to cheer for you with Amanda at the Eugene Marathon, excellent job btw! I am a runner who also feels the desire to thank God for the gift to run and use my time running to connect with the Lord. Thank you for this post. I pray that you will continue to be blessed to run and a blessing to others. PS I'd love to get the biblical 1/2 Marathon training info from you.

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    1. Thanks you for being at Eugene that day, Tanya, and for your prayers! Here is a link that you can go to regarding the combined spiritual/physical training. I just discovered it this morning. http://runningbythebook.com/running-training

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  13. Hi Raina,

    I try to be grateful to be alive, healthy and running and so when I toe the starting line of a race I'm happy that I've made it there.

    My mantra is "Any day you can run a marathon is a great day!"

    (Also allowed "any day you can run a race is a great day!" 8)

    That said of course I'm happy to PR and/or hit my target pace spot on with nothing left. I do like passing young guys in the last 6 miles of a marathon... is that ok? ;)

    Cheers!
    -paul

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    1. Oh yes, Paul. Indeed. Any day you can run is a good day! And in reality, it gets even less complicated than that. Each day is a gift. period.

      You don't need my permission to enjoy passing anyone! :)I feel a little sorry for the young guys though.

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  14. Wow, great post and even better perspective! "The Gift of running"-it does come from Him. How we perform changes almost daily, but when we see the big picture and put running in its proper place, that is when we can find contentment. Or so I believe....

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    1. I believe you understand my heart here, and always appreciate your perspective, Adrienne.

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  15. Really fantastic post! Thanks Raina! I'm lucky or maybe blessed with not being competitive at all. I often let who ever finish before me and I've given up plenty good times for helping someone else get their goal. I know I missed my best PR's by doing this and now I'm to old to better the ones I got, but I feel blessed and privileged that I was given the chance by God to be there for others. I have found contentment and I'm so happy. I love running and live for it, and maybe it is because God helped me to do it this way.

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    1. Johann, I always see you as a very content runner and your blog really displays this. It is a fantastic thing that you have been so deeply satisfied and are such a blessing to others at races.

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  16. I seriously love this post. You hit on so many key areas. I've always really admired Jeff Galloway for the reasons you mentioned.

    Thanks for the reminders about what's really important.

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  17. Thank you so much for this awesome post!!! A few years ago I was struggling with this feeling of always striving...if I could just run a half in under 2 hours then the rest of the chaos in my life would all fall into place...I would be strong enough to endure the trial that felt like it would swallow me alive. It wasn't until I turned to the One...the only One who could put the pieces back together for me just the way He wanted did I find contentment.....and surprisingly a 1:52 half marathon!

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  18. Wonderful post full of interesting suggestions to think about ourselves and what we are going to do.
    I am like you, I struggle with those thoughts (speed, log-book, mileage, distance, PB ecc.) but not during a race.
    I didn't know the story of Jeff Galloway and how Liddell died.
    Thank you.

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  19. For me, it is the journey not the destination. I do want to see what the destination is though, I want to see how fast I can get and work hard (not always successfully) to be less attached to time goals. I would probably continue training like I do even without races. I just like what running does for my mind, body and my life.

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    1. Seeing the process and the outcome are both rewards for people like us. Time goals present interesting challenges, since races are, by nature, timed and placed.
      I always enjoy your thoughts, AM. :)

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  20. Coincidental? I think not.

    Good link. Relevant on many levels.

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  21. I love this post especially how you tied in scripture. It's definitely making me think.

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  22. Super post! As I get older, I find that I enjoy the journey more than the destination when it comes to endurance sports. As you highlighted in Ecclesiastes... "find satisfaction in all their toil". I do enjoy being able to do a race, but I truly like the training.

    In Jesus Name...

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    1. Thanks for connecting the toil and training- I made that connection too and wondered if anyone else would.

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  23. I think it's very difficult for goal driven people to be content. I have a great example in my husband as he is the antithesis of competitive. Each run or ride that he does, makes him "happy" because he completed it. I try to be more like that and less always searching for that moving goal. Thank you for reminding me that there are TWO facets to my athletics - myself and others!

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    1. You are very blessed to have such an example in your hubby, Andrea.

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  24. What a smashing post, one I can empathize with, and I wish you all the best at the start of this new chapter in your life. If you can emulate Eric Liddell, you will go far. Quoting from David McCasland's beautiful book, Pure Gold, "Through the power of the Holy Spirit Eric was literally God-controlled, in his thought, judgement, actions, words, to an extent I have never seen surpassed and rarely seen equalled". What an epitaph!

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  25. As always Raina! Never find disappointment when I come to your blog. I'm always provoked and inspired in some way. So very well written and so relatable on so many levels.....One of the few bloggers I will always keep bookmarked. Xo

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    1. even if you remove your bookmark, I know where to find you. :)

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  26. Brilliant post Raina. I like how you filtered your thoughts through God's Word. I can relate to struggling with contentment regarding running. I've continued to feel driven to push myself harder and get faster. I've also taken this passion and prayed that the Lord would use it for His purposes and glory. I want the tops of my shoes to get dirty also! ;)

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  27. Very interesting post. A lot of this rings true to me. I will say though that in the past, I was basically content as long as I wasn't injured. That is the main thing that I strive for. As long as I'm out there running that is the main thing I care about. And being injured the past year has brought this home to me too. The times and PRs will come. I think if you are never content with what you are doing, then you need to do something else since you'll never achieve peace.

    Congrats to your neighbor on the 1500m champion!

    About camping at Lake Chabot, yea it was pretty dry - lot of dry leaves on the ground. We could have a campfire, but it had to be in a firepit and everything. Lot of things to burn like leaves in the campsite, lol.

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    1. I thought a lot about injury in this too, but had trouble tying it all together. There are so many facets to contentment and this sport we love. I hope you are finding peace with your running these days Nelly.

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  28. I really like this post! It got me thinking!

    I've been running better now than I have ever run, and it feels great. But I'm noticing that actually what is making it feel even better for me is that I'm helping two other people that are getting into running. I like getting to pass on the lessons I've learned and share my advice from things I may have learned the hard way! And now I actually have a running partner to enjoy the time with while we both have different training goals, yet keep pushing and motivating each other at the same time. It's rather refreshing! OH!! So with that, during our training we are going to start working in hills, too, since we registered for Prefontaine yesterday!

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  29. Thanks so much for sharing your heart in this blog. I too think we as runners can get caught up in the desire for PR after PR. But true contentment will never come from a medal around our necks, but instead from a crown upon our heads when we finally reach our finish line. I have found that helping another cross their finish line is so much more rewarding than running my own race. (I am going to add your blog to my website so my readers can read your blogs too!)

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