I ran a 5k race this over the weekend with my husband and teenage daughter.
This distance is short but that’s also why it’s so tough. You have to be a racehorse ready to roll as soon as the gate opens. There’s something magical about being in the midst of other runners that makes you suffer more. Misery hurts but also propels you to the finish line sooner.
For all practical purposes, the morning went well. We walked away with 3 medals- well, actually 2. One participant’s triumph turned our victorious morning on its head.
My daughter won third place in the 15-19 year old age group. I won my 45-49 age group. My husband, accustomed to winning his 50-54 age group at this distance, was told he didn’t place in the top 5. Really?! Getting over our shock we learn he won the men’s Masters division. Wow (clap clap)! The Masters division is any male over 40. That’s a first for him and he was stoked. He goes up to claim his medal AND a brand new Garmin watch! Here’s where the situation gets complicated.
As my husband is claiming his big prize, another guy steps up to the announcer and shows him his personal watch and says he won the masters division. Next thing we know “Mr. Who Are You” walks away with the medal, plaque and Garmin watch. So I tell the announcer if that’s true, then my husband won his age division. (When you win an overall award like Master’s, you are not eligible for age group awards). He agrees. My husband deserves the medal and the gift certificate to the running store like I received for winning my age group. They soon realize someone already claimed the 50-54 year old first place award.
My husband walks to the car empty handed with his wife and daughter dangling medals around their necks. No medal, no plaque, no gift card, and no expensive Garmin watch. He paid an entry fee, ran a race as hard as he could, won, and has nothing to show for it. Don’t sweat the small stuff, right? It’s only a 5k. Mistakes happen. Blow it off.
We’re riding home all victors! But my husband is ticked. I’m very understanding and agree he was short changed. I engage him in a discussion about the ordeal. The whole way home this goes on as I repeatedly talk “mental strategy” about how to let this go. In the back of my mind I’m not totally getting it as to why this is that big of a deal to him. This is a guy who just re-qualified for Boston a few weeks ago running a 3:22 personal record marathon! And he’s this irritated about a stink in’ local 5k?
We arrive home and the real issue surfaces. Deep down he was upset for not asserting himself at the time a guy without an official time comes up and shows a personal watch and convinces the director to give him the Garmin watch and the Masters win. It is true that the guy may have not officially registered for the race or maybe forgot his timing chip. Personal watches don’t count in any race! And every race I’ve ever entered clearly states, no chip – no time!
Aha! Now I know what’s really bugging my husband about the whole ordeal. So the good wife that I am, I begin more “therapy” on my husband and try to offer my perspective in my typical fashion.
“Honey, they are just volunteers and they made a mistake. Forgive them and move on.”
“You were in a weird position and you didn’t want to make a scene. You took the high road and everything happened so quickly.”
“Why don’t you write a letter to the director after the times are posted? That’ll make you feel like you did something to remedy it.”
“Sweetheart, you are such a rock star runner. If anything, your name is going to be on the internet as the masters winner.”
“Come on, we have a whole evening planned. Forget about it. It’s over.”
“What are you focusing on? You and I won our age groups and your daughter came in 3rd. We should be celebrating!”
I think you get the picture.
This post isn’t about my husband’s race really. It isn’t about life being unfair.
It’s about the fact that I have a really hard time letting people I care about just BE upset or angry. Just give them time with their own feelings. Let them stand when their legs are stable.
I’m always problem solving, trying to make sad feelings happy. Trying to give the solution to the problem. Trying to turn anger into gratitude. Always offering another “perspective.”
Don’t get me wrong. I think my advice is good and often warranted. But that doesn’t make it appropriate all the time.
I’m wondering if anybody else can identify with this habit of mine. Always rationalizing. Always trying to fix it no matter what “it” is.
Sometimes the words “I understand” are enough. These two simple words don’t need to be delivered in a rescue boat.
I allow myself to feel all emotions, including those that require a crying towel or a boxing bag.
The people I love deserve the same.