Over the years, I’ve noticed that the times when I am the happiest and feel the most fulfilled is when I am doing something meaningful for someone else. I hear the saying, “You have to take care of yourself before you can really offer something to others,” and I think there is validity to this — but it depends on what “taking care of yourself” means. We set goals in life for our jobs, families, in running and plenty of other areas, but most of us will be looking for more once our goal is reached.
Picture this: You have a current goal to run your first half marathon. You crush your first race. Then, you want to run a specific time, and then you may want to qualify for Boston. The list goes on! Then what? In the fitness community, it is common to think about how one can improve even more. This is normal, but what I am getting at is that you don’t need to wait until you reach that “perfect place” to take time to take a step back and give back.
I’ve noticed this, especially at home with my wife, spending time with my son and even in my own running. When I am thinking about what would help my wife out or make her happy as opposed to what I want her to do, I feel happier. It can be difficult to get out of the “what about me” headspace — but when I do, it’s more rewarding!
When I think back on some of my more enjoyable races, I remember the volunteers, the support crew and friends who were cheering me along the way. Think about some of your favorite races. What work did others offer to make that a special race or run? How did their role change the way you felt during and/or after the race?
As the fitness community tends to be a more motivated group, we often want to focus on how to progress and move the ball forward, but it is important to understand that we can also find joy and fulfillment from doing something for others such as volunteering, crewing or pacing a friend. My friends and family who supported me at one of my most challenging ultra trail races were likely a big reason I was able to finish. I’ve seen this with our Trail Roots running community year after year. Our runners help pull each other through and always offer to help one another out — it is inspiring.
As Thanksgiving approaches, there is likely to be many opportunities to give thanks and offer a hand to another runner. Races are harder and harder to come by, but goals are still there! Your friends still have running aspirations, too. What can you do to help them during a year when we have seen more challenges and struggles than ever? Maybe it’s pacing, maybe it’s crewing for a friend running an ultra marathon, maybe it’s driving and setting out water for a friend doing a long run or maybe it’s taking a friend who has been wanting to get back at it for their first run.
While 2020 has been a year of tests and division, our world is closer than many would think. Giving to others in need, lending a hand to a neighbor, helping a friend complete that big race (even if it is a virtual one) can make a difference. The more gratitude and giving we can offer to the world, the more we see each other as friends and family and equals, and the happier we might become.