In 2017 I named Eric Liddell as my exemplar for the year, someone I wanted to learn form.
After spending time learning more about Liddell, one item seemed particularly relevant to put into practice – his approach to races.
Liddell was one of the most fiercely competitive people I have ever read about – once running so hard to win a race that he had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital afterwards. At the same time he was incredibly compassionate to his competitors. There are numerous accounts of him sharing a friendly word before races, lending his gear to another racer that forgot theirs and praising the other runners after a race. He would mentioning their best aspects and how they very well could win the next time.
It seems a dichotomy to be equally caring of a competitor’s heart and unrelenting in his own physical performance. As I reflected more on it, and his philosophy, I have come to better terms with it. Running was never as important to Liddell as the hearts and souls of others, but he knew that doing his best at that gave him the opportunity to gain respect and influence a greater number of people on and off the track. So he cared for people first, and once that was taken care of, he raced with everything he had. I didn’t read about any account of Liddell coming across a tripped runner, as often happens in longer races, but I suspect he would have stopped to help them up first and then taken off running again, only to catch the pack and win the race.
After gaining this understanding, I decided to approach the races I ran this year in such a manner, which is very different than my normal approach of aggressive trash talk, fierce competitiveness and being a sore winner/loser at the end.
I still need some practice at it, but it was nice to be able to take something and so immediately put it into practice.