Last year, I attended a training event with the GORUCK cadre. They constantly reminded us to look after our fellow trainees and look after the group above looking out for ourselves. The most common mistake on this was at meal times, going back for seconds before everyone had gone through the first time.
This offense was met with a cadre yelling across the dining tent, “BUDDY F**KER!!!! HOLD UP YOUR SAMMICH!!!” and having to hold your food high over your head until everyone had been through the line.
I have been seeing a few things at recent races that remind me of this.
When I was doing my volunteer time in Quebec, a young man approached me for help, having injured himself on the Hercules Hoist. The rope had slipped and ripped a good portion of the skin off of his hands. I couldn’t quite visualize how this had gone wrong, until I came to the same obstacle at Utah. The first ten feet of rope were coated and infused with mud. Everything at a Spartan race gets muddy, but this was mud so ground in that it was almost as if the rope had been greased. It took all I had to keep a grip and get it off the ground, and to keep it from rope burning my hands when I got back to the greased section of rope.
I couldn’t figure out what was causing this, until I saw one of my fellow racers lowering the weight by standing on the rope, grinding all the mud from her shoes onto and into the rope. I admit that this caused me to say a few things out loud that politeness would tell me to keep inside my head.
Racing is an individual sport, but think of the people on the course with you. We all find the methods that work best to get us through, but also think of what you are doing to the racer behind you. Don’t screw over your buddy for your own advantage.
This shows most in the little details. Do you step out of the way when you hear a faster runner coming behind you? Do you continue standing at the water table, or grab your drink and step out of the way?
Do you encourage your fellow athletes to be their best, or just encourage them to think that YOU are awesome?
There is another disturbing trend that I have seen increasing of late, and it does no one any good. There are always different schools of thought for any endeavor, but lately it has descended into tribal warfare.
Anyone who does not work out as hard as you is a wimp. If they work out harder than you, they’re a meathead. Marathoners are elitist snobs. Obstacle racers are half-assed weekend warriors just doing it for the beer. Bodybuilders only want their muscles for decoration. MMA fighters are brutish neanderthals. People who encourage their comrades on with jeers of, “Don’t be a pussy!” are sexist jerks. Those who are offended by such jeers are, well, pussies.
We are each on our own path. If the person next to you is on the path that helps them be the best that they can be, encourage that. Even if it does not coincide with your path. Because their path may not be right for you, and yours may not be right for them. If they are doing good work, acknowledge that it is good work.
There is a particular instance of this that I need to give further attention.
“If you have not trained for it (as much as the speaker has) then you shouldn’t be there.”
“If you don’t have what it takes, don’t bother showing up.”
“If your marathon time is over 5 hours, you didn’t REALLY run it.”
If you have never, ever shown up for an event under-trained, your goals are too easy. Yes, you should pick a goal and train for it with all you have. But life gets in the way. We have to take time off for injuries. We don’t improve as quickly as we had hoped.
If you’ve paid for an event, gotten the time off work, trained as well as you could, and you’re not sure you can do it…Don’t you at least want to see it? See what you can and can’t do? See first hand what you are up against, so you can better plan to kick its ass next time?
If you stumble through and barely finish, hold your head high. A finish is a finish, and the ones you barely complete are the ones you learn the most from.
If you try and fail, that’s fine. Get up, dust yourself off, adjust your training, and go after it again.
And if you finish well, good for you. I’ll raise my glass to your accomplishment. But don’t you dare belittle those behind you, those that are still in the field as you finish your victory beer. Anyone who has the nerve to step up and give all they’ve got is worthy of your respect. We’re all in this together.