Racing Towards It…

Racing Towards It… by: Roman Newell

Reading Time: 5 minutes

This is a picture of me at mile 20 during the Richmond, Virginia Marathon in 2011. I had a goal time of 2:59.59. I wanted to break three hours. I didn’t. I ran 3 hours and 5 minutes. Oh I’d still set a personal best by a full 12 minutes. But there was something inside of me—something which exists to this day—that wouldn’t allow me to view any shortcoming as small. I’m not entirely sure where it comes from, but all my shortcomings, even when they are achievements, embrace me in a headlock. 

It was in those times, being an only-child, and having only ever relied on my own drive and will, that I went to the only person who ever made any sense—my future self. I felt him wrap his arm around me the way a big brother would—lank and sloppy—while my chariot eyes stared off into the distance like there was an army to conquer—like I had a fight in the coliseum to prove myself to the world. Some men are made to conquer. It’s maybe one of the most powerful drives man is given, but the danger is that conquering oneself and destroying oneself overlap a little. Sometimes they look like the same thing. 

In late spring of my senior year in high school I ran what would become my lifetime PR in the mile. 4:29. A time that was respectable; a mark many would admire, yet for me it was just a reminder of limitation. Conundrum isn’t it, that the pointed successes spied by others are just the reminders of the source code for our own shortfall? And so many times it’s not even really about the goal is it? Right? Because oftentimes we are the only ones who esteemed the goal to begin with. We set the mark for ourselves. We set a more difficult goal when we could have set one easier. And yet we are troubled if we are shy of it at the day’s end. And it’s not so much about the goal is it? It’s strangely, actually, about feeling out of sorts with ourselves, disappointed like maybe we weren’t actually who we thought we were.

And in there lies the true source of angst. We long not for accomplishment as our youthful zealousness suspects, but for truth. We wish to find the truth about ourselves as men so that when we meet the day of our ruin and ultimate end we feel like we have been pushed and tested enough that we finally know who we truly are. And so the only real regret we feel at the end is the woefulness that comes from measuring our shots and never really finding the truth about who we are, and of what grand things we actually are capable.

You know I went for a run today, much slower than my younger days, and as I sucked the heat and wind I had two realizations:

  1. Our present limitation is the boatman that carries us to our future self. All of our limitations are catalysts. And all of our limitations are impermanent. They’re just little nuggets of fertilizer saying come on, try again. 
  2. I was preparing to the final hill before my return home and, as I often do, I had a conversation with myself. Come on Roman, just keep it slow and steady up this hill. Just keep moving. And suddenly I realized one of the reasons that running had always been so central to my success outside of running: it’s hard to keep running when you don’t believe in yourself. Some days I wake up and I tell myself every negative thing I can dream up. I play all my failures again and again, and I have nothing encouraging or positive to say to myself. Much of the time I don’t even remember what hill I’m climbing. Then I step outside to run and it all becomes clear. The goal, the attack; and it’s deliberate, and it’s step-by-step, and I’m coaching myself and encouraging myself every aching step of the way because you can’t finish a race on indifference. You finish the race on defiance.

So….. I am here, and every day I feel more aligned with some limitations; others are still hanging out there, and a few, I probably know nothing about. I take a walk up a dusty mountain trail. I’m alone. The sun is beating my flesh, I’m pouring sweat while the cacti watch. There’s occasional insect; I am scratches and sweat and blood and a picture I am slowly coloring in, and I see my future self. He’s holding my warm-up jacket, he hands it to me, he hugs me. And I’m staring into the distance.


Roman Newell

Graphic Compositions:
by: Darlene Carroll

Graphic work can not be accomplished without the incredible resources made available to this Author and his team. THANK YOU to the following artists for the gift of their artistry and generosity in sharing their beautiful artwork, photography, and fonts.

Background Imagery:
o. Author — personal photo collection
o. Kinkate — Pixabay

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