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What is Greatness?

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I want to show you something. It is a video of Saucony athletes in their element, working, sweating, toiling, and running in places that many of us will never get a chance to.

I like the ad, don’t get me wrong, its pretty motivational, but one line in particular sticks out:

“Maybe strong is what you have left when you have used up all the weak”

Something about that line inspires me. As runners, what we do on a daily basis baffles the non-runner. The pain we put ourselves through to get better, to set new PR’s, to lose weight, and to achieve our own personal goals just doesn’t make sense to everyone else. The problem is, we can’t all be like those athletes in that ad. Greatness has become defined as low body fat percentages, world record times, perfect running form, six pack abs, and training in the most beautiful places you could possibly travel too. It’s not very realistic is it? I have fallen prey to this mantra quite a bit myself over the past few years, using my running as something distinguishing, something that puts me on a level higher than everyone else. I know it’s wrong, heck I was raised better than that. I found myself judging people by how fast they were, what their PR was for a 5k, mile, 8k, or marathon was. If mine was better, than that made me a harder worker, a better runner, a better person right? I used to love when people asked me how fast I could run a mile, and the reaction thereafter when I claimed my 4:34 high school PR. Truth is, i’m not that good on a national scale. Running collegiately has shown me that. Working at a running store I have also come to appreciate the wide range of abilities and ages at which people are running these days. As the sport has grown over the years it has changed from something that only elite athletes did, to a sport that everyone, no matter what the age, weight, gender, or purpose can participate in.

Let me show you another video.

I know I’m a little late on this one, but I was watching Marathon Road last night, and this Nike ad was in the sidebar. It shows a 12 year old 200+ pound kid from Ohio just jogging down the road, with a famous actor talking of greatness in the background. You may have seen it and a similar strand of ads during the Olympics.

In this video a line stands out as well:

“Greatness, it’s just something we made up. Somehow we have come to believe that greatness is a gift reserved for a chosen few. For prodigies, for superstars, and the rest of us can only stand by watching.”

That one line sums up the entirety of what our society stands for in terms of athleticism these days. Sure, those professional athletes are the pinnacle of human physicality and expertise in sport, but what about the rest of us? I used to think that I worked harder than those weekend road racers, those baby joggers, those people who have way to many water bottles strapped to their fuel belts for a 4 mile run. But in thinking those ways I neglected to see what was right in front of me. The Greatness around me. My Father runs 10 miles a day, 5 days a week, and I dont think I have ever heard him complain about it. I try to impress him with lots of miles and gritty workouts, but he always just acts like what I do is just another run. The truth is, he’s right.

Greatness isn’t physical impossibilities dedicated to the people who have the ability to break world records, it’s for all of us. It’s for the people who work 12 hour days, and still get that run in. Its for the people just trying to make those personal goals they have set a reality. It’s for everyone who works for something bigger than themselves. In running, there are 100 different ways to define it, but for now I’ll just stick with Nathan, that 12 year old kid from London, Ohio out there at dawn working hard as you and I sleep in. He isn’t wearing any fancy running gear, no special $175 forefoot striking shoes, he doesn’t have perfect form, and he definitely isn’t going to be setting records anytime soon, but he is out there. He is working hard, like we all should, for our own personal greatness.

So next time you lace up the trainers, don’t think about how everyone else has told you to run, just get out there and try to accomplish something you never have before.

“We are all capable of it”


-Happy Running







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