Life Lessons Learned From Special Olympics Track

By Christina Chapan

A few years ago I had the opportunity to go to a regional Special Olympics track competition.  I watched as one of our participants, Steve, received a first-place medal for his shot-put throwing.  He was first but what struck me was that he did not care.  He was more interested in participating in life, congratulating the second- and third-place winners, and spreading the joy of the opportunity for the event to others. This first-place win would allow Steve to go to state and then, if he continued to succeed, he would go to nationals.  I asked his family if he was always like this and they said yes.  His upbeat, positive attitude really spoke to me.  If I could truly enjoy the journey instead of speeding and competing in sports with others, how much better my life would be.

Another athlete in Special Olympics was a guy named Dean. He loved to enjoy life no matter where he was.  He always got disqualified in his fast-walking event because he could not stay in his lane as he fast-walked the track.  I believe that more than chance would have it as he competed in regionals and no one participated with him in his leg.  This allowed him to go to state and I was able to keep him miraculously in his line, so he did not get disqualified.   He had been putting in the work but without only competing by himself would allow him to go to state.  That showed me that as an athlete, I am competing with no one else other than myself, every day is a gift, and I need to appreciate that.

Fast-forward to today.  I am blessed that I love to run and have completed many half, full, and ultra marathons.  I love the social part of running.  I live in an interesting perspective that many people my age do not get to experience.  I am a fairly slow runner but not one of the slowest.  I enjoy not only running but also biking, swimming, stair climbing, hatha yoga, and weight lifting.  Most of my friends are not my speed but are either faster or slower than me. 

The “plank verse,” Matthew 7:5, says “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  I think about how easy it is to be judgmental of others.  I think about how some runners spend so much of their energy on winning and performing.  How they stress out not only their mind, but their emotions and body to the point where often they get injured and hurt.  This overtaxing their body sometimes results in their not being able to compete.  I had this happen to me as I started one summer to train  aggressively in my running. It definitely was not worth it.

Even though I am not that fast anymore sometimes I fall into the same boat kicking myself because I did not do as well as I should of in a race or training run.  Thank goodness for those people who bring me back to reality and tell me that I need to enjoy the journey.

Then there are the slower people like me.  You want to improve but realize that age and physical limitations will never allow you to compete for Boston but that’s okay.  I would rather enjoy the journey and never be so fast that I leave anyone behind.  May I always be just like the athletes Steve and Dean, who inspired me,  and allow others to join me on the way.  

Christina Chapan is an ACE certified personal trainer, ISSA Youth Fitness Trainer, SCW, Sports Nutrition, AFAA certified group fitness teacher, fitness author, conference speaker and  special education elementary school teacher. If you are interested in learning more about Christina, please visit her website: Fit 4 Fun Kids' Fitness

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