Shuffling My Personal Best

Posted: April 4, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

ShuffleThis Sunday is the Shamrock Shuffle 8k in downtown Chicago. Nine of my Robert Morris University colleagues and I will be running the race as part of team “Run RMU Run.”

TrumpTechnically, we are in the “Team Competition,” which means our individual finish times will be combined and ranked against other teams in the Corporate Division. The fastest teams will win prizes. The losers will be fired from their respective workplaces. It’s like the Apprentice, but with less combover and more jogging.

As I organized our team for this race, I encouraged everyone to think of this as a fun opportunity for us to do something together, not as a true competition against other teams or each other. Come the next workday, I want us to be able to share our stories of the race and be excited to share an experience like this again, not gloat about who was fastest.

As a team we will not be out for blood.

For me as an individual, it’s a slightly different story.

In the past year, I’ve gotten more and more into running races: 5k, 8k, 10k, obstacle course races. I grew up on competition. It started as a kid with my dad and I fighting over Scrabble and Boggle at the kitchen table, and then carried into playing basketball throughout my teens and early-20s. I like to compete. It motivates me in athletics, at work, and even in my creative endeavors. For example: When my college girlfriend,a Poetry major, told me I “couldn’t write poetry,” I started writing it just to prove her wrong. Granted, that made me not only competitive, but also spiteful and shallow…and perhaps a poor selector of girlfriends. But I digress. And I published poetry before her. But I digress.

I am not a delusional competitor, though. Just because I love basketball doesn’t mean I think I could beat Michael Jordan in his prime. I could hold my own against some college-level players in my day, but the bottom line is lots of players were just far more talented and skilled than I was. Those were just the facts, and I accepted that.

Likewise, just because I now love to run doesn’t mean I expect to keep pace with the “Elite” division runners who start at the front of the Shuffle. In fact, not only will I not be with the Elite runners, but judging on last year’s results, approximately 9,400 people will finish ahead of me. Literally.

My hope is to complete the 8k (4.97 miles) in 43:00-44:00 minutes, which is far off of last year’s top finisher who ran the race in 23:18.

So, if I will be running 20 minutes slower than the top finisher, what “competition” is there to be had?

The answer: Lots.

First, I enjoy competing against myself. I will never run a 23:18 8k. I don’t think I can even drive a car that fast. My personal record, which was this week, is 43:38. So my first goal will be to set my personal record. If I run the Shuffle in 43:37 or faster, I will be pleased.

Shuffle 2Secondly, I don’t judge myself against the best runners; I judge myself against the field. While 9,400 may finish faster, last year’s Shuffle included over 34,000 people. That means that my anticipated finished time will have me across the line sooner than 24,600 people! In other words, I’ll be around the top 25% of all runners. I can be proud of that.

With basketball, I wasn’t born into a body gifted enough for the sport. At only 5’10” and with a vertical leap that measures in the negatives, my ceiling was not very high. It’s the same in running. I am not long and lean; I have short legs and big arms. As I once told a friend of mine who runs marathons, “I can’t run a marathon, but I can bench press multiple marathoners.” I know that I am biologically ill-suited to ever be an Elite runner. Add to it that through most of my life the only running I did was either on a basketball court or to a refrigerator, and it makes even running 5 miles straight seem like an accomplishment.

So, on Sunday, while my team collectively won’t be aiming to compete, I will have my own personal competition. I won’t be delusional and aim to be something I simply never will be, but I can continue to push myself to tap out the maximum of my potential in something that I really enjoy doing.

  1. david pyle says:

    Good luck all RMUers! Have a good time, during and after the race!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s