I competed in track and field in high school, an unmemorable athlete. I pole vaulted, practicing just enough to clear opening height half the time, and stuttered through hurdles with laughable form. I might earn the team a point a meet.
But, senior year, I found my event: 400 meters. One lap around a track. A quarter mile. You need endurance; the race requires a near sprint for a full minute or more.
I pushed myself through repeat 200’s. I improved. Sometimes I wasn’t the slowest leg on our 400m relay team. And our relay team was good.
County finals rolled around and I thought, “This will be my last 400m ever.” I ran faster than I ever had before. My legs were numb as I rounded the final curve. I couldn’t believe my legs were still responding to commands. I matched the girl beside me. I couldn’t hear the Incomprehensibly to me, I qualified for county finals. I never imagined that I could be one of the nine fastest 400m runners in the county. But my hard work was rewarded with a Personal Record (PR)…and another race?!
I didn’t place in the county finals (unless you count last), but I surpassed my own expectations of my ability. I was a runner of no note, except to myself. I still remember my PR, nine years later, without looking it up. I remember how hard I worked for it. It’s a landmark on my personal map of achievements.
In my writing, I have no notions or visions of being immortalized as the next Thoreau or Abbey; I hope to inspire thought, appreciation, and creation in others while honing my craft. I want to create to the best of my own abilities, to create something that I am proud of.
In your work, or if you race non-competitively, aim to achieve the most you can, yourself. Set the bar against your own PR, not the world record. Don’t get caught up in trying to be the best; enjoy the competition with yourself as you push for your best. But leave yourself open to new goals and achievements – you just might surprise yourself.