25 years ago I ran my first Marine Corps Marathon and last week I ran my final with the Marine Corps 50k. The conditions were challenging (rain/downpours/wind and then temperatures shot into high 70s), and I am certain some were wondering what they had gotten themselves into. For me, it was a privilege to run again in celebration of the Marine Corps (I am a Marine vet – a Captain), veterans, families of those who gave their lives in service to our country and people from around the world in what is known as “the people’s marathon” and 50k.
This day for me, however, was different for another reason and one I want to share. In every race I have run over the last 25 years, I have always challenged and pushed myself for a best time, a best placement in my age group or even a best overall finish! Competition is a value of mine and while I have had many great successes, the road is also sprinkled with some pretty epic failures and races in which I was unable to finish.
This race was different. I didn’t even realize it until the start of the race when I wasn’t pushing myself to the front of the starting corral for position when the cannon went off. For the first time, I didn’t try to race; instead, I took in the scene, the spectacle. I looked at monuments, talked to Marines, families of the fallen, fellow runners and spectators. I simply enjoyed the event and savored the day. This was a big shift for me, taking off the competitor hat striving for a finish – instead, engaging in the present.
How often do we take off our striving hat, our competitor role and simply engage in the present? Doing so doesn’t mean we are weak, or without goals. Remember, I still had to run the 31 miles and finish! What taking off the hat gave me was hours of time to be grateful for all the previous races and runs and a moment to pause and acknowledge my accomplishments without a focus on “what’s next.” It gave me an opportunity to smile at the many peaks and valleys (in running and in my career) I have faced along the way, and like leaders in any profession, to smile at the resiliency I developed to navigate them.
Think of what taking off that striving hat and engaging in the present can do for you. It may give you time to reflect and decide if your direction is really pointing to the destination you want. It may help you more effectively navigate today’s 24/7 work life integration challenges. It may help you simply pause, acknowledge your accomplishments and be grateful. I challenge you to try it. It helped me acknowledge a final completed ultra-run. At the finish of a long day, I smiled when a recently commissioned 2nd Lieutenant put a finisher medal around my neck, saluted me and said Semper Fi, mission accomplished!