Which race would you like to win?

This weekend I’ll be running a relay race as part of the Manitoba Marathon. Big events like these are a lot of fun to be a part of, as thousands of runners hit the pavement together.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when you’re part of a running event is which race you’re running. Everyone might be running the same course, but some are running only 4 miles, while others are running 26. If you’re running a longer distance but try to keep pace with a short-distance runner, you might get in trouble later in the race. And at certain points courses merge and diverge, making it really important to not just follow the flow, but know which course you actually want to be running.

In life, as in running, it’s important to know which race you’re running. You might live and work shoulder-to-shoulder with people who by all appearances are running the same race as you, yet you’ll find that your course and purposes diverge at certain points in life.

Anna Quindlen, in her great little book (originally a commencement address) entitled A Short Guide to a Happy Life, quotes her father who pointed out:

If you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.

As an alternative to the rat race, Anna offers this advice:

I suppose the best piece of advice I could give anyone is pretty simple: get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you developed an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast while in the shower?

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dune, a life in which you stop and watch how the red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. Get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger.

We’re lucky in that in many ways we get to choose what kind of life we want to live, the key is to choose.

(Coincidentally, Seth also wrote about races today.)