On my long run this weekend (a hilly 8 miler), I ran past this young dude who looked like someone I went to summer camp with when I was young.
His name was Jim. He had long hair and was much taller than me, and had these giant, broad shoulders I always thought several first graders could sit comfortably on to see over a crowd.
Despite the fact that I went to the same summer camp in Maine every year from the time I was 8 years old to the time I was 16, Jim was a one-summer kid, but I'll never forget him.
At the camp, we had this game we played, called tetherball. It's a ball, attached to a rope. One person hits the ball one way, the other person the opposite, and the point is to get the ball to keep going your direction and wrap it completely around the pole.
Jim was really good at tetherball. So I, of course, challenged him. Nearly every day as a matter of fact. At 6 feet, Jim always had the upper hand when it came to the game.
He would always swiftly beat me. And always ask the same question of me: Why would I bother to play if I knew I could never beat him?
And I'd always just shrug.
What I knew, that Jim didn't, was that by playing him, he was making my game better.
It didn't matter if I never beat him. What mattered was that I was getting better.
It's the same with running with people who are faster than me. I may not be able to keep up with them now, but I know simply by running with them, I'm getting stronger -- and faster -- every day.
I just love trying to figure out who will be the next person to push me.