“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” – Theodore Roosevelt
In the few years I’ve been into endurance sports, one line I’ve never understood (and still don’t) is: “This is my B (or C, heck maybe even D) race”. Ahhh yes, the classic nonchalant attitude, that, in my opinion, serves as an excuse. 5k or 50 miler, I don’t understand why one would pay to register for a half-hearted effort. “B Race, tune up, fun run…” Whichever way it’s framed, I just don’t get it. I think every race should be an “A race”. No matter what.
Isn’t the point of a race to be a culmination of your training? Or at least an implication or where you’re headed? I understand people sign up for shorter distance races prior to long ones. There’s a variety of reasons: motivation, gauge fitness levels, go with friends. With that being the case, I believe every race should be an A race. Running is the ultimate mind-body, in-the-moment connection. The best way to embrace that moment is to extract as much from it as you possibly can. To me, that means to absolutely go for it. Sore, tired or fatigued, I think we’re selling ourselves short when we decide to hold back.
We’re not guaranteed tomorrow, the next day, or next month. That eventual “A race” way down the line, might never happen. The possibilities of life interfering with the opportunity to stand at the starting line are endless. Standing at the starting line of a race should be a celebration. The best way to celebrate is have no regard for failure and let it rip.
Six-time Olympic medalist, Bode Miller exemplifies this killer instinct. He ignored the noise around him. Everybody hammered him to go 80%, that way, he could at least finish a race. That didn’t align with his most sacred belief: “You gotta send it. Other people’s perspectives, while valuable, shouldn’t supersede your own”.
In the World Cup Slalom, Miller went two complete seasons without finishing. That’s right, zero finishes. It’s a record! Skiing is his job. It’s results-driven and for two years, the results were nil. He certainly had the speed to win, but he wasn’t going to let the temptation of slowing down triumph over letting it rip. He knew he would keep crashing; however, once he figured it out, he would start winning. Sure enough, that happened. The next year Miller won 4 races in one season. Win or lose, it was Miller’s dogged confidence that was the greatest result of all.
Below is a video of Miller crashing 5 days after DNFing at another event. You gotta love his fortitude!
I believe that this “letting it rip, no regard for failure” attitude can produce a ripple effect in our lives. If and when we do screw up, this frame of mind allows us to acknowledge a mistake, own it and keep charging. It takes some chutzpah, but not holding back allows us to create the life we want, with no room for regret. The discomfort felt when we let it rip pales in comparison to the strong and long-lasting feelings produced by regret. Miller’s explanation is spot on: “The one person you have to answer to is yourself anyways”.