Human Racing

Recently, I went to watch my husband, Pierre, Autocross (Auto-X), which is a car racing sport where pylons define a specific course in a large empty space (like a parking lot) and drivers are timed as they individually navigate through it. The object is to beat your time over several runs during the course of the day and maybe even win your “class” (a Ford Taurus and a Porche wouldn’t be in the same class because THAT just wouldn’t be fair!).

I don’t Auto-X, but sometimes I go along for a ride and that’s a lot of fun! As I co-piloted and simply watched the Auto-Xers, I noticed it had a lot in common with my competitive sport of choice, running. They share similar life lessons. Here are just three of them:

Lesson #1: Know your vehicle

Driving a Porche is a little different than driving a Ford Taurus. If you expect the Taurus to perform like a Porche, you WILL be disappointed! But, then, you’d be equally disappointed if you expected to get all your groceries into the back of a Porche! Auto-Xers drive every car imaginable and the people that do well simply understand what their vehicle can do and what it can’t do.

The same can be said for runners. They come in all shapes and sizes. There are lots of Porches and lots of Tauruses. Seeing a Taurus who understands his/her own abilities and uses them to the max is as exciting as watching the Porches.

Lesson #2: Pace yourself

Whether it’s cars or people, once you figure out what’s under the hood, you need to learn to take care of it–or physical break down is inevitable.

In Auto-X, if you simply try to blast through the course, ignoring the difference between a straightaway or an intense turn, you aren’t going to get very far–you may even crash! In running, if you go out too fast in a marathon, you’ll likely bonk way before the finish line!

On the other hand, if you keep “saving up” for the finish line (“I’ll give it all I’ve got later”), you’re not getting the most out of the vehicle or yourself. And, as in all things in life, there may not be another chance. Lightning could strike, your car could break down, you could fall into a pothole as you’re running and break an ankle.

In either case, you have to constantly listen to your vehicle. It all comes down to pacing. You have to be able to recognize when the less-is-more approach is appropriate and when the more-is-more approach is appropriate.

As a kid, I was a sprinter–there was OFF and ON–no in between. It’s taken a lot of practice and life experience to learn the pacing lesson. For me, that means being “in the moment”. I’ve gotten pretty good at asking myself, “how do I feel RIGHT NOW? Physically? Mentally? Emotionally?” I might feel one way this minute, and another way this minute (if, for example, a lightning bolt hit me in between those two minutes, how would my experience change? Radically, I’m guessing!).

The older I get, as aches and pains increase in number, pacing has become a running (and life) imperative for me.

Lesson #3: Appreciate ALL your resources

Knowing “what’s under the hood” and learning the subtle nuances of pace are important, but car races, foot races and human races don’t succeed without community. We can be Usain Bolt or one of the Andretti racing clan, but without the many people working in the background, there is no success. Some of those “resources” even volunteer to put up tents, time events, hand you water, cheer you on, inspire you and help you succeed in a thousand other ways.

I’m Curious. What lessons have you learned through your racing experiences? I’d love to hear about them!