One of the biggest problems I have with modern athletics and sporting events is that people are always out there to be the best. First of all, let’s not confuse this with trying your hardest. The difference is that you can try your hardest – at anything, not even just sports – without being the best. Trying your hardest to achieve the best that you personally can is different than just being better than everyone else. For a long time, I’ve always looked at sports as something that shouldn’t be treated as a profession, let alone one that pays the kind of money it does (but that’s another story). We all start out at the same place, throwing a football in the backyard or taking the field on an abandoned sandlot. And it’s a game. It’s just for fun. It’s just to have a good time. But, modern, professional sports have taken it several levels beyond that. With professional athletes making hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of dollars a year just for playing a game and some of those athletes making even more off of endorsement deals that don’t even have a direct influence on the sport, it seems as an outsider looking in that a lot of people get caught up in the hype and fame of a select few, setting new and seemingly impossible standards for themselves as athletes, simply dooming themselves to fail if they don’t achieve that high standard.
Sometimes, however, it only takes one good, heartfelt story to remind me that there are still those out there who do something simply for the sake of having a passion to do it. Not necessarily to be the best, not even necessarily to be really good. But, they do it just because they like to do it.
Cue Mr. Larry Macon, former lawyer and self-transformed runner for life. The man started running just to cover a lie he had told to some of his lawyer buddies. And not just any old running – he was running a marathon. This was a 50-something year old man who had never come even close to running 26.2 miles in one stretch any day in his life, taking up marathon running on a whim just so he wouldn’t be shown up by his coworkers (that peer pressure’s coming back).
Roughly 20 years later, at age 72, Macon has recently completed his 2,000th race. When I’m 72, I still hope to be standing on my own two feet, let alone crossing any sort of finish line. But the best part about this feel-good inspirational story is that Mr. Macon doesn’t do it for the money or the fame (I’ll admit I’ve never heard of the man before reading the article), but just because loves to run. He also says it gives him new perspective on life. With running being as inclusive as it is, he meets people from all walks of life and gets to see the world in all sorts of new ways that he wouldn’t have thought to see as an “old, white lawyer” as he dubs himself. He says he doesn’t mind entering a race, taking in the scenery as he runs and stops worrying about personal statistics. The man has no problem taking over 7 hours to finish a marathon (he completed his 2,000th race in 7 hours, 16 minutes and 31 seconds). The secret to his success?
“If you drag your body out on the racetrack, you’re pretty good.”
So the next time you get caught up in personal ability or even how you compare to others around you, remember 72-year old Larry Macon when you feel you can’t be fit or do something athletic. You may just end up surprising yourself in a similar way.