I recently ran a half marathon.
As I made my way to the start area, I realized right away that this race would be different from those I was accustomed to. The number of participants was smaller, there were no flashy signs or banners and there was no loud music booming to get us pumped for the competition ahead.
Although the group was small, there was a great camaraderie among the participants. The beauty of the mountains more than made up for the lack of banners or balloons. And the music wasn’t missed; the sounds of nature were more than enough to get me excited to run.
When the race director called us all to the start line, he began his pre-race speech. I've heard many of these speeches before and usually tune them out. I'm rarely leading the pack in a race, and all descriptions of the course just sound like gibberish to me anyway.
However, two words from this speech jumped out at me: “Be courteous.”
Those were two words I had never heard at the start of a competition. Why was he telling us to be courteous? This was a race — a competition. It was sound advice, but I wasn’t sure what his point was.
Pretty soon the race was underway. I got into my usual race mode and pushed forward at a comfortable pace.
About two miles in, the trail narrowed down to single track and was gradually winding uphill. I felt fine, but I soon heard another runner coming up quickly behind me. I turned my head to look and saw an older gentleman who was well into his 60s, maybe even 70s.
A big part of me was inspired, while another part — the competitive or prideful side of me — didn’t want to be beaten by an old man. Just then, the words “be courteous” entered my mind. I stepped off the trail, smiled and let the man pass. He smiled back, thanking me.
The kind exchange not only warmed my heart but also gave me the extra boost to pick up the pace.
At about the halfway mark, there was a steep incline that would continue on for the next four miles. Feeling really good, I made my way up the hill and came upon two runners who I could tell were struggling. I knew that one of the runners was the third-place female. I could have taken advantage of her struggle, but I remembered my last trail race when a fellow competitor helped me during a difficult time.
For the next few minutes, I ran with her, encouraging her to shorten her stride, keep her head up and to take deep breaths. Together, we made it through a difficult part of the race. She thanked me, assured me she was fine, then courteously stepped to the side to let me pass.
As I continued along toward the finish, I passed a couple of people and was passed by a few myself, all the while smiling and encouraging one another. With each exchange, I felt the positive energy fill my body, giving me the energy I needed to keep going.
When I crossed the finish line, finishing in third place for the women and minutes faster than my goal time, I wasn’t tired. I was smiling, I was happy and I had energy to spare.
I know that the advice by the race director to be courteous played a large part in me doing well and in me feeling as good as I did. Instead of wasting energy on worrying about being passed or pushing hard to catch that next runner, I was re-energized by the positive attitude that was ever-present in my fellow runners.
And fueled by the words “be courteous.”
Arianne Brown is a mother of six who loves running. For more articles by her, "like" her Facebook page by searching "A Mother's Write" or visit her blogs, timetofititin.com or thestoriesofyourlife.wordpress.com.