Let me start by telling you that skydiving was
not at the top of my Bucket List. To be quite honest, it was not on my
list period. How did I let someone else pressure me into taking
the leap and facing a big fear?
I admit that I am not a big thrill-seeker, and I would typically be found
teaching the Skydiving Safety Course instead of actually being the one
to jump from the plane. I honestly expected myself to close my eyes
and pray the 40-second free-fall would be over with a few I think
From the moment I stepped onto that tiny plane, I surprised myself. I
never panicked. My eyes were open. And I can honestly say, I survived
(and would most likely jump again).
The difference between me and the person who encouraged me to seek
the thrill my husband would jump again for the
rush and intensity of the free-fall. I, on the other hand, would jump
to enjoy the slow cruise and view after the chute opens.
Even if you are not a self-proclaimed thrill-seeker, there must be something
that gets your heart pumping and creates an adrenaline rush so intense
that you immediately seek the next adventure. As a runner, my next thrill
to seek traditionally comes from the finish line, not a parachute. Ive
never crossed first as the person to break the yellow winner
tape across my chest.
To be quite honest, this is most likely not in my running future. Competing
against no one but me is my highest priority. There IS thrill in simply
This concept is very difficult at times for others to understand. A fellow
running friend, also a teacher, explained to me that she proudly showed
off her recent mini-marathon finishers medal to some of her high
school students. They asked, Did you win?
After a brief laugh and an explanation that there were thousands of runners
in her age group alone and countless in the entire race field
she tried to convey the medal was for finishing.Everyone
gets a medal she responded.
Just for finishing?
Their attitude made the medal seem average, not worth the effort, or not
worth showing off.
I can run 13.1-plus miles on my own, and there is no cheering section,
announcer, free Gatorade or finishers medal waiting for me when
I turn off my Garmin and unlace my shoes. Those personal runs, too many
to log, are for personal satisfaction. They are for my health and for
my need to relieve stress. A group run or time on the road with a friend
is social, while solo runs are personal. Pounding the pavement, one mile
at a time, is my time to solve lifes problems (Ive always
thought the therapy you get from running cost you no more than a good
pair of running shoes).
So if running without the traditional race day fancy finishers perks
can give you so much personal satisfaction, why do I find a need to plan
for my next organized race just to cross a chalk-drawn or spray painted
finish line? Running a big mini or full marathon can mean overnight travel
expense, planning babysitters, leaving early for packet-pickup, and packing
a long list of race-day essentials. Its typically a weekend event
that involved time and additional expenses not to forget the $50-$125
race entry fee.
My husband once asked me, Why? Cant you just go out to run
13 miles on your own? What makes crossing a race day finish line so special?
For this average runner, race day is my adrenaline rush. Crossing the
finish line provides the same thrill as that first step out of an airplane
at 10,000 feet. Each mile marker provides the same rush as the 40 second
free-fall. The comfort, even with hundreds of people on the same street
as my feet at any given mile, is similar to knowing Im strapped
to an experienced tandem jumper. And the brief period of peace when they
put the finisher medal on my neck after my feet slow from a finish line
sprint to a wobbly-leg walk is my 40-second free-fall.
The best part is that I am perfectly OK with just the finishers
medal. There is no jealousy for the speed demons who collect prize money
and a first-place trophy. The medal might seem average to some and might
only cost race organizers and sponsors a couple of dollars. I dont
share the same mentality as the previously mentioned high school students.
The medal is never ordinary to me just because others have earned it for
just crossing the finish line. I have earned every one. They are proudly
hanging on a fancy medal rack at home and not tossed in a shoebox. The
shape and graphic of each medal and the ribbon attached brings different
race day memories and a different finish time.
I think one of the beauties as a runner is that there can be a balance
between just finishing and competition. The rush, or finding
a fire within, can truly come from doing your personal best. Some runs
bring a thrill of finishing a determined number of miles you have set
for your training. Some races bring a rush of accomplishing a PR
(personal record). And some days bring the peace of putting one foot in
front of the other and not worrying about competing against yourself or
others on the road.
If you have never crossed a finish line, consider taking a leap of faith
and signing up to walk or run in a race. It may not be the same rush as
skydiving, but you just might receive a thrill by earning your own personal
medal of satisfaction.
Heather Foy is a 20-year coach and group exercise instructor
in Madison, Ind., who has been in the Wellness field for nearly 20 years. Email
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.