“Don’t you give up on me 583! You are not a quitter 583!”
While I am not, nor probably will ever be, a qualified racer for the Boston Marathon, I deeply admire those who participate, and I also admire the fans. It is the fans, the friends, family, and volunteers who transform marathons or other races from terribly long runs into events.
Marathons take a while to complete. Marathons hosted in cities other than Boston can take even longer as the racers aren’t nearly as fast.
As a spectator, there is very, very little you can do while you wait for your runner of choice to cross the finish line. Unless your runner is equipped with a personal fitness tracking device (thank you Endomodo friend maps) you can only guess your runner’s time based on past performance.
Rather than wandering off to a coffee shop or taking an early morning nap propped up against the barricade rails, the majority of spectators spend this time shouting encouragements to random runners. While the spectators don’t know whether a runner’s name is Sue or Bob, their shouts are specific. “Bring it home 423! That’s it 741, show that pavement who’s boss!”
The spectators read the bib numbers off the racers and make sure that racer knows the spectator is calling directly to them. Often this little bit of extra attention is all that is needed for a racer to keep up their grueling pace, because they know someone is watching. The practice makes everyone faster.
If you think about it, these spectators are actually encouraging other racers to beat the person they were originally pulling for. In any other sporting event the fans would be booing the competition, not cheering for them. With marathons, the thing that matters most is that their runner beat his or her personal best, not how they compared to others.
Many of us want to be successful at what we’ve chosen to do. We’ve struggled. We’ve burnt the midnight oil. We dedicated ourselves to learning our craft, business, or other chosen skill. Then we get discouraged or feel threatened when we look at how we supposedly rank against the competition.
As a writer, my only competition is someone who has created an identical story to my own in length, characterization, plot, and design. In short, someone who is violating all US copyright laws.
My competition is not other struggling writers. I enjoy reading other’s works and occasionally comment on other blogs with my real thoughts and feelings based on what they have written, not just as a means to plug my own work. The little gesture of recognition might just give them that needed boost towards their own finish line.
Unless your business deals with professional athletics, we need to change our definition of winning. It shouldn’t be about how badly you can beat the competition. It should be about how well you exceeded your personal and professional goals. We need to force ourselves to become marathon strong and shout encouragement along the way.