In an earlier post, I presented a list I compiled of 50 things that make me feel good. In a moment lacking inspiration, with over thirty minutes of my daily writing time still to fill, I needed something to go on—I found a middle school prompt that I initially thought would take mere minutes, but required the rest of my writing time for the day to complete. To expand on this writing project, I began an effort to discuss each of the 50 entries, and this post is a result of that project. Read the list at the original post, here.
Besting myself means that I do better than I did before for no other reason than to show myself up. I’m not saying I’ve ever been in front of the mirror shouting, “Yeah, take some of that, you”…I’m just saying I’ve been known to stand in from of the mirror shouting, “Yeah take some of that, you.” I can’t let some punk tell me what’s up, can I? Even if that punk is me?
My most recent affliction in this area is the 5K run. I’m not sure exactly why I ended up running 5K’s (to be fair, I’ve only ran two—but I am signed up for another one in November and I clearly already have a problem!), but I can’t seem to quit them. Now, if you told me two years ago in 2015 I’d be running 5K’s for fun, consistently trying to beat my previous time, I’d have laughed at you through my mouthful of cheeseburger. My 100-pounds-overweight-burger-scarfing-not-going-to-exercise-unless-it’s-exercising-my-thumbs-on-my-Xbox self had no interest in running three miles for the sheer sport of it.
Well, I lost those hundred pounds and I’m more fit now. I’m not a health guru and I still pant/sweat excessively when I do these runs, but I am back in a normal weight range. Want to talk about besting yourself? Trying to lose a little more weight each week for an entire year practically defines besting yourself. Oh dear…you’ve let me go off on a tangent, see? Let’s focus back in on the topic at hand.
The University of North Florida sponsored this run called “Swoop for the Troops” back in April—that was my first. My dad is retired Navy, and the military troops have a special place in my heart. When I realized the race was for the troops and it was sponsored by the university, something that had only been a passing thought at that time—running a 5K now that I’d lost the weight—became a solid idea I was considering. My dumb self went and signed up for it, too.
There is this joke that goes around about 5K’s: when you begin the race you’re thinking, “Why do I do this to myself?” and when you finish the race you’re thinking, “When can I do this again?” That’s funny because it’s true. Even if I’ve caught this bug now, there is still something a bit humorous about how unprepared I was for that first 5K. Take a look at the picture below, before I began the race, after putting on the sponsored shirt:
Ah, look how innocent and unsuspecting I seem there. Half-smile on my face, hat perfectly positioned atop my head, sweat-free complexion shining in the morning light. Little did I know that I would hope for various stages of death before I finally finished out the 3.1 mile race.
Even here, as I am running around the mile mark, I seem content, easy-going, and confident. Let’s be real, though—my wife was snapping this photo on the sidelines as I ran by her (she was literally about to burst at nine months pregnant, my daughter laughing at me from inside her belly) and I wanted to look content, easy-going, and confident. It is more likely that this was the moment I was thinking, “Why did I do this to myself?”
During that race, besting myself only meant finishing the race. It meant not giving up in the middle. It meant proving to myself that losing 100 pounds had made a real difference in my life beyond feeling better about myself. I wanted to know I could do it. I wanted to show my wife I could do it. I wanted to be able to tell my daughter (later, of course) these things can be done. And you know what? I finished.
I knew at the end of that race I would run another 5K and I would want to beat my time. That’s the whole point of this post—besting myself makes me feel good, and I have found another outlet in which I can consistently try to best myself. I committed not to become a 5K junkie. I only run races that benefit causes I actually support. In truth, this is probably why I have only completed two races and have a third one upcoming. The cause we’re raising money for is as important to me as beating my previous time.
The race I finished in August was for a humane society. If you’ve been reading at all, you know I love cats. It was hard to say no to a 5K that doubled as a fundraiser for animals. So I didn’t say no. Not only did I run this race, but it was a 4-mile run instead of a 5K. I was besting myself and I was besting myself. Not only was I going to try to run faster, but I was going to run longer as well.
For the second race, I did a little training. I prepared by running on my treadmill at home. In Florida, preparing by running barefoot inside on a treadmill compares very little to running outside in the blazing heat with shoes and socks on. However, I felt a little preparation was better than the prep I did for my first race—none.
Come race day, I didn’t even want to attend. I didn’t feel like it. I’d been sick. I was exhausted from beginning a new job and graduate school. I straight up wanted to skip. I’d made a commitment though, and that commitment was going to raise money for some awesome cats and dogs. Even though I didn’t want to be there at all, I showed up at Flagler Humane Society’s Fast and the Furriest. And I ran (check out the 0:09 second and 27:00 minute mark):
The people who attended this race came to compete. For the first mile or two of the race, I felt out of my element. In fact, I felt embarrassed to be there at all with these other serious runners. However, I had to remind myself by worrying about the other runners, I was robbing myself of the joy of being there at all—robbing myself of the joy of besting myself. I wasn’t there to compete with the fifty-something other runners. I was there to compete with myself. Six months prior, I had never even ran a race! A year prior to that, I was grossly overweight. Once I realized I was too wrapped up in other people, I was able to focus back in on besting myself. That’s when I started having fun. That fun paid off, too. As is seen in my race results here, I shaved my overall time for running a mile down by a minute:
While I’ve only discussed the area of 5K’s, I get enjoyment from besting myself in every area of my life. Whether it’s a grade, blog post hits, or a personal best in Scrabble, I am down for betterment. It keeps me pumped, it gets me moving, it makes me wake up in the morning. While it can be hard to be in competition with yourself all the time (the fights, with their Edward Norton-ian similarities really could land me in a psych ward), it sure does pay off in personal pride. It is for this reason (the personal pride reason—not the going to a psych ward reason) that besting myself makes my list of “50 things that make me feel good.”