I crossed the 3-mile marker and closed in on the final 200 meters of the 5K race. I was on pace to set a personal best at 41 years old and felt every stride. My heart was pounding, my legs were throbbing, and my arms burned. I clenched my eyes, narrowing my focus (or losing consciousness) as I drove to the finish line. To my right was another runner, pushing hard, but I was determined to out-kick him. The race winners had long finished, but every place matters – to me. Leaning forward, ignoring the pleading of my brain and heart to stop, I quickened my stride for the final few meters.
18:20. A new personal best and a time I never thought I could run. I finished the Atlanta Hawks Fast Break 5K second in my age group with a time faster than I had ever run in high school.
Curious, I looked for my closing rival in the race results. There he was, a few seconds behind me. All 11 years old of him! I was stunned, awed, and reminded of an important lesson.
There is always someone faster. Always someone smarter, wealthier, or better. None of that matters. All you can do is compare yourself to yourself. Are you better than yesterday? Last year? Ten years ago? That is the person you are racing at the end. You may not see him, but here is there. Screaming at you to slow down or take it easy. Beat that person. (But it is fun to beat the eleven years old too).