Leaving It All Out There

This January I will celebrated twenty years of racing. Over those twenty years I have run countless races from one mile track runs to the JFK 50. More importantly I have stored up memories of these races. I have run in sub-freezing temperatures, rain, snow and worse yet near 100 degree temperatures. I have run on tracks, roads, and trails. I have raced through my twenties, thirties, and now into my forties. I have raced two ten milers and a marathon while pregnant. And with each one of these races I have tucked away little memories, experiences I can fall back on.

The ones that mean the most to me, the ones that come to mind when I am doubting myself in any area of my life, are the ones in which I pushed myself to the limit. The ones where I left everything I had on the course. It isn’t because these are the ones where I earned an age group win. Heck, in most of the ones where I pushed the hardest, I wasn’t even in the top ten.

These races where I left it all on the course mean the most to me because of the level of elation they brought at the end. Even as I sunk onto the curb, gasping for breath, even as I stiff armed my brother as he tried to hug me so I wouldn’t puke on him, even as the tears rolled down my cheeks I realized I had given it my all.

There is something special about doing that. Maybe it is as simple as the old saying, “it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, as long as you did your best.”

Personally, I think it is because in life, there are not many opportunities to leave it all out there. As an adult we don’t run around playing chase with our friends. We don’t run through the woods full out because somebody has convinced us that a ghost is right on our heels. We do things in moderation. As adults excess is frowned upon and for most areas of our life that is okay.

Racing is the exception. In a race, it really doesn’t matter whether we win or lose. My all out race would be at best an eight minute mile. In all but the smallest races, that is not even going to earn me a handshake at the end. But when I make a decision to leave everything I have on a course, I am taking a risk. I am going to the extreme. There is a chance, I might run out of steam before I cross that finish line. But it doesn’t matter. I am okay with that because maybe there’s also a chance that I won’t. Maybe, I will push all the way through and cross that finish line gasping for my next breath. Maybe I will PR and maybe I won’t. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I have left it all out there. There will be no regrets.

When things are tough in life, whether it is in the midst of giving birth, worrying about my son as he proceeds towards his final days before leaving for West Point, dealing with a teacher or a boss who is making my head spin, it is these races I look back on. It is the pain of pushing to the extreme that helps me to hold my head high and push through the situation. Knowing how far I have pushed myself over miles and miles, sometimes for hours and hours, gives me a confidence to know, I can do anything. I can handle pain and discomfort. I can leave it all out there.

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About Ann Brennan

Ann Brennan is first and foremost a mom of three beautiful children. She is the managing editor of Beyond Limits Magazine and the creator of Ann’s Running Commentary. In 2012, Ann took Ann’s Running Commentary to new levels – first with a segment on the RunRunLive Podcast, chronicling her journey to her first Ironman and second, with a new channel on YouTube. Currently Ann is working on a non-fiction book series and working hard every day to remind people to get up, get active and get out there.
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12 Responses to Leaving It All Out There

  1. joerunfordom says:

    Ann what a tremendous post. They say a picture paints a thousand words and that shot of Andy O. says a lot. But I think your words in this case capture the spirit of “Racing” better than I could ever hope to.

    I am going to print these words and read them as the last things I look at before race day on February 2oth.

    Thank you Ann! You are the best.

  2. Jeremy says:

    Fantastic words! It really puts in perspective why we race/run. We get beyond the point of running to stay in shape, we run to leave fears behind, we run to leave it all out there, we run to clear our minds. We run! and therefore we Live!

    thank you! Awesome words!

  3. I wanted to write and say that this was an extremely well written post. I really connected with it and loved the way you put it all together.

    I agree with what Jeremy said….it really does put in perspective why we race/run….and cycle.

    We are champions and we can do anything.


  4. Pamela says:

    Awesome, Ann. And this is why we run — for that feeling of accomplishment that effort gives us, not winning, but battling oneself.

  5. Pingback: Tweets that mention Ann's Running Commentary | Leaving It All Out There -- Topsy.com

  6. Tom M says:

    Love this post Ann! Thanks for putting it out there!

  7. Patrick says:

    Great post. Pretty much sums up why I run!

  8. Oh how did I miss this post? This is one of your best. You really captured that which motivates us to continually strive to go further, try tougher challenges, and push our personal boundaries.

  9. Brittany says:

    Awesome read, I’ve only been racing for 4 years, but I hope that 15 years from now I’m going as strong as you are.

  10. Glen Snider says:

    Giving it your all is a very satisfying experience. I’m sure we’ve all had runs/races where you cross the line and still had some energy left in the tank. Then you wonder “what if”.

    There are a lot of metaphors for life in this example. Pacing is a part of it.

    Is this a “short” mile race or a marathon? How long do I need to put out the effort? In a similar way – is what I’m going through a relatively short project or years of school or a family health issue?

    The point is, you want to look back and know you did everything you could.

  11. Amy Reinink says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes, “leaving it all out there” means a PR. Other times, the “it” refers to your breakfast, and the contents of your intestines. But in both cases, those are the races I remember—not the easy, fun races I do with friends, or the races I aim to simply finish and have fun during.

  12. steena says:

    Lovely, lovely post. I can relate, my most memorable and best races are when I stopped worrying about the small stuff and left it all out there. Thanks for the reminder!

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