I’m starting to get the feeling 6-Seconds doesn’t like me!
It all started about 7 or 8 years ago. I joined the Western District Joggers and Harriers club. A feature of this club is the monthly 3.5 and 10 km handicap races. You can walk or you can run. Either way, everyone is racing against their own handicap. If everyone runs precisely according to their handicap, we will all cross the line at the same moment, making for an exciting finish.
Starting from fat and ugly, it took me awhile to get up to speed. The first time I came close to winning the 10 km race, I was beat out by Terri. She crossed the line only 6 seconds in front of me.
However, I had missed my start time by 30 seconds! I won’t tell you why I missed my start or what facility I was in, but if I had started on time, then I would have won decisively. While I managed a personal best (PB) that day, ‘having to see a man about wallaby’ cost me a trophy.
The next incident was just a couple of months ago. Due to some knee problems, I am now walking the 3.5 km race rather than running the 10 km, but I’m a blur! I certainly was that Saturday, walking past everyone at a blistering average pace of 7:43 min/km.
As I rounded the final bend and headed into the straight before the finish line, I noticed there was no one else around. I was that far ahead, it looked a bit like this…
…except I was walking.
As I crossed the finish line, I was first and no one could deny me a trophy … except 6-Seconds, of course. I found out soon enough, from the officials, I had beat my handicap by 6 seconds, which disqualified me from the trophy and dropped my handicap by a minute.
Damn 6-Seconds! What did I ever do to you?
I realise now I have a nemesis! And 6-Seconds is his name.
All joking aside, this reminds me of a famous quote from the apostle Paul:
But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24)
The great missionary was saying goodbye to friends and leaders he had trained. He was on his way to a trial, whose result was uncertain. He fully expected to be convicted and executed. So, naturally, he here reflected on his life and the purpose he pursued. He was confident he had pursued and fulfilled his purpose, and that his life was spent for a cause greater than himself.
Paul’s parting words highlight the essential difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and rewards.
I enjoy running for the pleasure of the activity. This is an intrinsic motivation.
If I were running to win a race and to earn a trophy, this would be an extrinsic motivation because I am engaging in the activity for the purpose of gaining a reward. Whereas motivation arises before one begins an activity, rewards may result from the activity.
Becoming a faster runner or losing weight are intrinsic rewards, whereas a medal or a trophy are extrinsic rewards. For more definition of all these terms, see the section, “Incentive theories: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation”, on Wikipedia.
What I love most about being a member of this club, and in these handicapped races, is the dynamic between the various types of motivation and rewards. While I could have won a trophy that day, the fact is I was only technically faster that at most 6 people out of the 50+ in the race (that’s the ratio of walkers to runners). I wouldn’t have minded winning the race and getting a trophy, of course, but this is kind of a false reward if my aim is to compete with and be faster than others.
To increase my fitness and speed, and so decrease my overall time, achieves a personal best (PB). No one can take that reward away from me! In that race, I shaved 10 seconds off my pace from the month before. That is a big win! The trophy would not have stated, “the once fat and ugly guy is now a little less fat”, but my time is now recorded for posterity and the club will declare my achievement for years to come (actually, everyone just laughed at my misfortune).
Because the officials set a handicap for each of the competitors, I can feel as if I’m faster than an elite athlete. This delusion notwithstanding, I’m really only competing with myself.
Even more than achieving a PB, I really appreciate the fact that, because of my misfortune, I can celebrate with the eventual trophy winner. Aged 79, this man earned himself his first trophy and, to him, I don’t mind losing.
Guess how much time after me he crossed the line?