Culture

Out There: Hey, It Happens!

A true athlete knows that the only way to move on is not to dwell on the bad race.

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A true athlete knows that the only way to move on is not to dwell on the bad race.

Written by: Susan Lacke

Sometimes unforeseen obstacles can prevent you from the PR you knew you were ready for. In the end, all you can do is laugh. Photo: flickr.com

There’s a scene in movie, “Forrest Gump,” which sums up running perfectly. As Forrest is jogging across the United States, a man comes up and begins running alongside:

RUNNER: Hey man! Hey listen, I was wondering if you might help me. ‘Cause I’m in the bumper sticker business and I’ve been trying to think of a good slogan, and since you’ve been such a big inspiration to the people around here I thought you might be able to help me jump into – WOAH! Man, you just ran through a big pile of dog shit!

FORREST: It happens.

RUNNER: What, shit?

FORREST: Sometimes.

In the time that elapses between building base miles to the taper, endurance athletes work out all the kinks that may sabotage a race. We experiment with nutrition, shoes, clothes, and gear. We study elevation profiles and course maps with more focus than anything we ever studied in college. When we see a stranger in the grocery store wearing a tech tee from the previous year’s race, we bombard that person with questions. On race day, we expect to reap what we’ve sowed.

And yet, for all our preparation and attempts to account for every variable conceived, at some point every athlete will learn the Endurance Gods carry a trump card with a very important message:

Shit happens.

Maybe it’s 30 MPH winds. Perhaps it’s a bike crash. It could be another athlete who trips, taking you down, too. Race day nerves might have given you an upset stomach. It might be a rogue spectator who got around the barricades and into your path. Or maybe, in spite of your perfect execution of your race plan, you bonked anyway.

But shit happens.

I did a 10-mile race while visiting my home state of Wisconsin this past spring. I was looking to set a PR, and got off to a great start that morning. Over the first 4 miles, the racers had spread themselves out considerably, but that all changed when everyone had to stop for a train crossing on the course lasting almost 5 minutes. After the last train car passed, we took off running again – only to be paused again by another set of train tracks in use 4 miles later!

I gave up my dreams of hitting a PR that day, a decision that was validated when crossing a river 1000 meters from the finish – runners needed to stop and wait for a bridge to finish opening to let boats through.

At that point, all racers could do was laugh.

Shit happens, indeed.

I’ve bonked. I’ve crashed on my bike. I’ve been pushed down and elbowed by overzealous racers. I’ve been swum over and given a bruised nose during a mass swim start. I’ve seen racers stick it out through cold winds and through intense heat, through asthma attacks and cramps.

Shit happens.

Yet we all keep racing. Even when a bad race occurs, we log it in the book, slam it shut, and move on. Though it’s disheartening to have a bad race, a true athlete knows that the only way to move on is not to dwell on the bad race, but to learn from the experience and start training for the next one. When we finally do have that good race, it’s just that much sweeter.

So, like Forrest Gump, we just keep running…even through the big piles of dog shit.

It happens.

See you Out There!

[sig:SusanLacke]