Runner’s Envy

In the mid-1990’s I lived in Washington D.C. and participated in many of the great local races. Our informal running group consisted of all college students so naturally we chose races based on the t-shirt design and the post-race food offerings. We’d return to campus tired, sweaty, and stuffed, toting bags full of bananas, bagels, and sport drinks! The Georgetown Classic 10k hit all the marks for us – great food, an amazing t-shirt that usually featured a runner in front of the famous brick row houses of the area, and a festive post-race party. Those early races taught me many valuable lessons (get there early!) and the one from the Georgetown 10k remains with me today, that is, “don’t be intimidated by the attire of other runners.”

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Long before the days of Lululemon’s $150 running tights and $38 visors, the Georgetown 10k brought out the ultimate weekend warriors, clad in “top of the line” gear. I recall our running group lining up to start, noticing everyone dressed like professional athletes, and deciding to move farther away from the front of the line. We felt intimidated because everyone’s gear looked better than ours! This was not difficult since one of our running group was wearing jorts (jean shorts) and only registered because of the unlimited beer at the after party. Nonetheless, after the gun went off we realized that many of the racers looked the part but were not necessarily great runners…even jorts finished respectably (the race, not the post-race party).

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The lesson for me was not to judge people based on external appearances. This is a simple grade school level lesson but one that I still need to be reminded of daily. Nowhere does my competitive nature crash with my judgmental side more strongly than at church. I look at someone piously praying and think, “I wish I could be that holy” or “That person seems to really have a strong prayer life.” If left unchecked, my thoughts can turn darker, drawing up examples of why that person is a fake. “He pretends to pray but I know he has a gambling problem.” Ugh..the envy, greed, pride, and resentment that I can exhibit…in church of all places. Of course, no one but God can know a person’s heart and scripture warns about comparing ourselves to others in this capacity. Moreover, church is full of hypocrites like me: sinners who try but fail regularly. If I can just focus on running my own race and keeping my own side of the street clean, I will be able, with God’s grace and mercy, to be at the great post-race party in the sky.

*I searched for photos of the Georgetown Classic 10k and could find few that showed the row houses along M Street. This photo does not feature too many weekend warriors.

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