How to Win A Race At 42: A New Life Lesson

How to Win A Race At 42: A New Life Lesson
How to Win A Race At 42: A New Life Lesson

Until last Saturday, the last official race I ran was in elementary school 30 years ago. From kindergarten through 5th grade, I finished first in my class in the school Olympics each year.

So I’ve gone through life feeling confident that I knew how to win a race. 

I would have enjoyed racing more over the years but never seemed to find the time. Friends would mention competing in 5ks, triathlons, or marathons, and I’d think, “Oh, yeah, I need to do that too.

More than once, I Googled races and almost signed up. Inevitably, I was too busy. 

Sometimes I’d run around the block or park, but it was never consistent.

I’d made commitments to run more often but would miss one day, and then another, and another, until I’d lost months. Seeing people run faithfully week after week triggered a pang of jealously. 

How to Win a Race at 42: Don’t Go It Alone

Eventually, I forced the issue when I decided that Fruitive would sponsor a 50k (31-mile) endurance race. My moment had arrived!

I had the option of completing the 31 miles on my own or sharing the task with a teammate. We’d both run 25k.

With only nine weeks to prepare, I felt mortified that my running app showed my last run was in March of 2020. My regular exercise had only consisted of my daily MESH routine and hundreds of walks and hikes throughout the year.

I didn’t even own running shoes so decided to train for the first two weeks in my walking shoes. My wife was concerned I would injure myself in my flat-soles. She brought me on a date to the running store and helped me pick out trail-running shoes. 

I began training with my 17-year-old son. He has more speed, but I was ahead in the life experience it takes to push through challenges. So I thought we’d make a successful race team.

Even though my last race was in elementary school, I was confident that at 42, I still knew how to win a race. We started at dusk on our first day, but I was determined to train.

On went the headlamps, and we hit the trail. Doing so was the older, life-experienced team member’s mistake. Before long, the younger, speedier team member paid the price for running on an unknown trail in the dark.

My son landed heavily on a tree root and hurt his knee. He finished the run, but next-day soreness hampered his second attempt. We agreed he’d take a week off while I continued on my own.

He tried joining me for a while, but his knee obviously needed more time to heal. The 50k race was too soon.

So my dad stepped (or sat) in, by biking next to me on the trail. At the same time, he encouraged me to find a new partner.

Less than seven weeks before race day, I put the word out for someone to run with me. Chef Ryan thought about it, but we’d need her help managing the Fruitive tent at the race. 

Two weeks later, my younger brother Bruce volunteered. He’d competed in a few races years ago – but like me, he hadn’t run seriously in a while.

We started sharing running-app screenshots of the four training sessions we averaged weekly. But during Week 9, both of us were too busy to train.

When the day before the race arrived, I found myself wondering,” Do we really know how to win a race?”

How to Win a Race at 42: Do Your Best and Surrender the Rest

All the runners picked up their race packets at our Virginia Beach Fruitive location, not too far from the Navy Seals base.  

When I arrived, the race organizers said we’d be competing against many military personnel – including Seals! “They like these endurance races,” they informed me.

I could feel my confidence evaporating. I was a mere entrepreneur whose racing success ended in elementary school.

I was out of my league. I had no idea how to win a race!

Then I remembered: I wasn’t running to win. I was running to do my best and represent my plant-based business! 

Raceday morning arrived. But I had never even considered my running attire – a somewhat embarrassing v-neck tee-shirt and hiking pants.

They’d told us to bring extra clothing in case we got muddy on the trail. So I scrounged through my bag and pulled out yoga shorts that might pass as running gear.

Gregg in between races.
Gregg in between races.

We were facing snowy, icy ground and sub-freezing temperatures. But with the change of clothes, I thought, “At least I’ll look like I know how to win a race!”

I threw on the official race shirt and prepared for the first run with all the Covid-19 precautions in place. All 250 of us remained masked except while running. We kept 6 feet apart, even on the trail.

At the top of every hour, we started a new 5k race. To maintain social distancing, we gathered in corrals at the starting line. 

Bruce and I were one of about 50 teams. To me, most of them looked like experienced runners. 

Surprisingly, both of us stayed in the front pack of runners throughout the day. By the afternoon, Bruce said he thought we were the lead team.

He pointed out that we’d both been finishing between 3rd to 7th place in every round, and those ahead of us seemed to be running as individuals, not teams. But I blew him off, saying that I’d be happy if we made the top ten. 

By day’s end, I allowed myself to imagine that we were in the top three. But the results shocked me.

Plant-powered to victory!

Not only had we won the team event; we were more than 30 minutes faster than the runners-up! Did we know how to win a race after all? 

Not exactly, but we won anyway. And in the process, I learned something new.

We don’t need:

  • all the right clothes
  • the professional shoes
  • the best training plan
  • years of race experience

We can win a race if we nourish our bodies with healthy food, exercise regularly, and rise to the challenge! 

Tomorrow, I’ll share how a whole-foods, plant-based diet helped me win.

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