Thursday, May 4, 2006

Win, place or show. It's a common expression identified specifically with horse racing. My novice understanding of this sport would suggest this to mean that horses that finish in these places, end up in first (win), second (place) or third (show). I'm not sure if this is accurate, but for argument's sake, let's say it is.

From the Olympics to airline service, there remains a tiered approach to success. First place equals gold; gold and elite club airlines members receive the greatest service and perks. If you are in a 5K road race or a wrestling tournament and don't finish in the ranks of the top three places, then for most people, you might as well be fifth or second to last.

This past weekend I had an experience that further altered my thinking, concerning this very matter. I was informed several months ago by my dear friend Chuck about an extreme road race in California entitled the Wild Miles Relay. It is a grueling but exhilirating 183-mile non-stop team relay race run through and around the ANZA-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California. Chuck and I decided to participate in this event and had our team formed - until unfortunate injuries plagued our team. Three weeks before the race, we had to reconsider our options and chose to join another team: Team Thrown Together at the End of the Road. It was a team comprised of several random runners, all interested in having fun and following through with the Wild Miles experience. We didn't run to medal. We didn't run to prove anything more than we could complete the task at hand, as a team. And joyfully, we did, coming in 10th of 21 teams with a time of 27:04:00. And in finishing, we were winners.

When all the medals are stored in a cabinet and all the victory story paper clippings are scrapbooked, the only thing of substance that will remain years from now will be our memory of simply trying. Perhaps our personal sense of winning is not a matter of coming in first place every time, but simply a matter of coming to the contest in the first place.

Sometimes just showing up and being present in this place and time is enough to win.