I was listening to Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My” the other day. In the first verse you hear the lyrics “It’s better to burn out than to fade away”. That got me thinking, which is normally an adverse experience for everyone, but I think this time it’s less negative. It made me think about a recent race that I ran in, a 31K trail race. I thought I did well throughout the entire race, coming in a very solid middle of the pack finish. The finish is what got me thinking. My average pace was in mid 11:00’s, but my last mile was a high 8-minute pace range. Now mind you that the last mile was at a slight decline but still pretty solid for this chap. I roared through that finish line with a bit of pride, knowing that I had a little something left in the tank. It’s always nice chugging through the finish with a pep in your step while people are cheering for you. That’s pretty much been my way of thinking until I hear Neil Young for the 300th time.
I crossed the finish line with gas left in the tank, which at first thought makes you feel as if you properly trained for the race. When you are able to strut across that line, it tells people look here, I faced and defeated this beast today. Or does it? Does it show your dominance of the obstacle in front of you or does it show the opposite? The opposite of someone who goes out there and gives all they have is called a sandbagger. Am I a sandbagger? Did I save all of my energy for 17 miles so I could look good for the last hundred yards in order to get the admiration of the dozen’s of people who don’t know me. I always looked at myself as a go getter, a balls to the wall, all go no slow type of guy. Could I have been misleading myself all these years? As a balls to the wall guy, shouldn’t I collapse the second I hit that finish line? Shouldn’t I burn out and not fade away? A lot of us like to say things like, “I don’t care what other people think of me”. A lot of us are lying to ourselves. I think deep down we want everyone to like us, or at the very least respect us. In this instance, I felt that the only way for me to the gain the respect of a bunch of strangers is to show them that the course couldn’t slow me down. But it did. It kicked my ass. What would everyone say if just drug myself across that line and then collapsed? Would they think less of me? Or would they think I gave every ounce I had? I think from now on I want my very last step to be crossing that finish line. I want everyone to say, “hey call an ambulance, I think that one dude died again”.
When the big race of life is over do I want to look good going into the finish or do I want to look like I just went 90 rounds with a 22 year old Mike Tyson? In life we don’t know the exact location of the finish line, in racing we have that advantage. I say from now on when we are in sight of the finish we want everyone to prepare a gurney for us, but only to wheel us to our next starting line.