It’s painfully human to think of ourselves as “normal”. So when it comes to running or lifting or cycling, it’s all too easy to think that those who aren’t in as good of shape or as skilled as ourselves are lazy slackers and those better than us as genetic freaks or simply lucky.
It’s much more difficult to be an encourager. To be able to take pride in our own accomplishments without bragging, admire those better than us without envy, and encourage those who aren’t as accomplished without being patronizing or condescending. I know only a few people who are truly good at this.
One is an ultrarunner who is my role model for being an encourager. His daily runs would be a personal best for me on either pace or distance and his focused workouts are incomprehensibly brutal. He eagerly signs up for 100+ mile races and is currently working hard to get his marathon time below 2:30. Not only is he on a different level from me, I have a hard time even seeing his level from where I am.
Yet, when we talk or email it’s like a conversation between peers and he is just as enthusiastic and impressed about the things I’m doing as his own efforts. For example, when I mentioned that my time in a recent half-marathon wasn’t all that fast, that it was about 2:50, he immediately countered with “so, two hours and some change.” (Talk about giving the benefit of the doubt!) When I asked about an ultra event he just signed up for, he talked about how crazy it was, but “you know how it is because that’s just what “we” runners do.” (Um, no, I don’t know how it is to run 100 miles through the mountains, but thanks for including me.) He talks matter of fact about his efforts and results and encouragingly about mine, despite my goals, effort, and commitment being so far below his.
Somehow, despite being a pretty elite runner, he comes across as a normal guy who just happens to run really, really far and set a really quick pace. Nothing special, just a regular dude who is passionate about running and loves sharing his enthusiasm with others.
I want to be that sincerely encouraging. To strive to be my absolute best, yet regard anyone else as a peer or equal, despite their level of aspiration or dedication. To help those who want it and celebrate everyone for where they are on the journey.