On Wednesday night this week when I crossed the finish line at the Zoo Run a fellow runner followed me to the place you drop your timing chip in. She was puffed but elated and caught my arm, thanking me. I had passed her at some stage in the 7.2km run and she pushed herself to sit on my shoulder the rest of the way as I was setting a great pace for her to complete a PB. She was very grateful and profuse with thanks.
It was a complete surprise to me that I was someone’s pacer. At times when I am asked how long it takes me to run a marathon, I usually qualify it with ‘I am not in the least bit fast’. But I guess that is relative and it is not all about speed. Sometimes it is about just finishing!
It made me think about pacing. About how often I spot another runner ahead and latch on to them in a similar fashion to pull my pace up, or run along side them for tough stretches or when I want to maintain a certain pace. As evidenced in the Zoo Run, I must act as a pace setter for others too.
The running etiquette around this is interesting. I don’t think it is written down anywhere, but if you end up finishing together it is not unusual to say ‘thanks’, or ‘great race – it was good/helpful/etc to push that last km together!’. When it happens during a run and you part ways, thanks is not always given, asked for or expected. You kind of slot in next to or behind each other and accept that you are helping yourself out but also helping each other if you run side by side. Sometimes there is a ‘great pace’ or ‘you’re doing well’, and when you part ways the occasional ‘nice work! keep it up’, and I sometimes wait at the end of the run to congratulate them on their finish. But often there is no interraction. It becomes an unspoken mutually beneficial time period.
This translates to other aspects of one’s life of course and not just running (surely there is a running metaphor for nearly everything in life!). I was discussing this with a couple of friends over the last few days.
- Who ‘sets the pace’ or inspires and influences us in other aspects of our lives in either a positive or less positive fashion?
- Who do we similarly, both positively and less positively, unconsciously influence the lives of?
- as a friend
- parent, child or other family member
- colleague or boss
- or just an unknown random encounter?
- Do we ever acknowledge the gift that others give us through their influence?
It is not hard to spot the positive influences in our lives and even our positive influence on others at times. Identifying the less positive influences requires a lot more self awareness. This is part of the life journey for me, and I am grateful for the few close friends who can delicately and tactfully pull me up or point out when I am being an arse! I am sure I may not always appear grateful at the time, but I do reflect on what is said. : )
So I guess my take home message this week has been that we are always pace setters in life, but are often blissfully unaware of our own influence. There is an inherent responsibility in that. We are also influenced by others and are responsible for the choices we make, consciously or unconsciously, that shape who we are.
Surround yourself with positive and tactful friends!