Running Your Race – A Syllabus for Well-Being

Guest blogger, Pietro Marino ’23 writes about his running journey as part of life at W&M. We know that accomplishment includes the concepts of perseverance and having a passion to attain goals. We’re pretty conditioned to persevere academically. We need to be thoughtful, determined, and reflective about being values-centered in our pursuits. In this blog, we learn through Pietro’s example about flourishing and wellbeing. They come when accomplishment is tied to striving toward things with an internal motivation or working toward something just for the sake of personal accomplishment and continuous improvement at our pace.

By Pietro Marino ’23

I run, but I wouldn’t consider myself a traditional runner by any means. I think the short pants runners wear look awful, I never properly stretch before or after my runs, and until last week I had been using the same pair of running shoes for about a year now. I didn’t run track or cross country as a high schooler, but when I broke my finger a week before my freshman year at William & Mary, I figured running would be the closest thing I would get to a work out.

So, when I showed up to the first meeting of the running group on campus, I felt pretty out of place. When each upperclassman confidently announced the distance and pace they would be running for the day, I was both in shock and awe. Eight miles at a 6-minute pace, 10 miles at a 7-minute pace, I could go on. For a kid who had never run more than a couple miles at one time, I immediately realized I’d be the laggard in whatever group I decided to run with for the day.

I chose to run with a group of girls, who were running one of the shorter distances at a more relaxed pace. Unsurprisingly, I spent the entire run hopelessly trying to play catch up, all the while the Williamsburg humidity pounding against me (seriously, who schedules their runs at 4 pm?). My shirt was soaked, I had blisters on my feet because of my non-running shoes, and I had accidentally cut my forehead with my finger splint trying to wipe the sweat away.

And yet, in the back of my mind, all I could think about was how excited I was to return to practice the next day and do it all again. I was a bad runner, I could tell everyone around me knew I was a pretty bad runner too, but I thought I would at least earn their respect if I kept showing up. So I did, and each weekday at 4 pm I started running a little faster, breathing a little less hard and sweating a little less.

Now, ten 5ks, five half marathons, one full marathon, and hundreds of individual runs in between and…well, I’m still probably not as fast as half the guys or girls in that group.

But to me, therein lies one of the most beautiful things about running: no matter the competition, the course, or the distance, you’re only ever racing against one person: yourself. The only time to beat is the one you set in a prior race. Who cares about the times of the other racers around you?

The freedom you feel once you understand that those around you are all running their own race is unparalleled. Before this week, I didn’t quite have a term for it, but I’m pretty sure this is what some would call “continuous self-improvement.” The problem is, few people, myself included, ever apply this principle outside of the race course.

I, like a lot of people around me, have fallen victim to endless comparison and credentialism. Instead of finding satisfaction and complacency in my work, I am left unfilled when there are minor imperfections. Instead of praising the accomplishments of others, I secretly envy their success and wish it were my own. And instead of focusing on my own definition of success in life, I often narrow it to the superficial hallmarks of what’s going on around me.

As we quickly approach the start of our 10-week internships, I wanted to remind you all to focus on running your own race during this time. Some of you may have been lucky to secure an in-person opportunity, maybe even landed the chance to work for a flashy, well-known firm or institution, and a few of you might be getting compensated for your work. Others may not have what society would consider a “prestigious opportunity.” At the end of the day, however, all those details are secondary to the work you put into these next few weeks. Don’t compare your experience to those around you. Instead, dedicate your time this summer to continuous self-improvement. You’ll not only feel more satisfied and fulfilled with your experience, but also with yourself. So, while we may be running similar races this summer, I sincerely hope that each of you will cross that 10-week finish line having run it on your own terms.

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