In his 1910 “Citizenship in a Republic” speech (also known as “The Man in the Arena”), Theodore Roosevelt delivered this famous passage:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who arrives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,
Because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
Who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly….”
I learned of this speech while reading a blog post written about Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly. Brown’s book is about vulnerability, which as she states is not knowing victory or defeat, but is rather understanding the necessity of both. In a nutshell, it is being all in. She goes on to say that fear and shame prevent us from allowing ourselves to become vulnerable. She urges us to enter “the arena,” wherever that may be, and to be courageous and willing enough to engage, rather than sitting on the sidelines critiquing the situation.
This Saturday, as I attempt my first 50k (31 mile) race, I will enter a new physical arena. While I know it will be tough and I will wonder why I subjected myself to such a thing, I know that covering the distance is the easier of the arenas that I am entering.
I’ve decided to expose myself and my fears and the endless pre-critiquing that have already occurred. I usually shy way away from vulnerability and exposure, so this may be more difficult than the actual event.
Earlier this week, I realized that I wasn’t excited about this race. And, not only that, but I was fearing and dreading it. I was already going through my post race critique and the race was still many days away. Why, because it was forecast to be too hot, because it was going to suck, because I was going to be slower than I would like. How did I know any of these things? I didn’t for sure, but if I didn’t stop thinking these thoughts, they would most certainly come true.
I looked at my training log to see what I had already endured in preparation for this race. While my paces were nowhere near my best efforts, they did assure me that I had run some very long training runs in very hot and uncomfortable conditions; I have learned many things form the long list of errors and shortcomings during these runs; and that I am prepared. I needed to stop living with the fear of future shame and to redirect my thinking in a more positive manner, formulate a plan, and become head cheerleader for Team Michelle.
What I know for sure is that on Saturday, I will be marred by dust and sweat. God willing, blood will not be part of the equation. I will strive to run this race as best as I can. I will enthusiastically toe that starting line. I have demonstrated, time and time again, great devotion to this sport that I so dearly love. At the best, I will know that I ran a good race and can proudly call myself an Ultra-Marathoner. At worst, I will have failed while daring greatly.