Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The most important part of the race

Lance Armstrong titled his first autobiography, "It's Not About the Bike." Having been passed by many, many people on less expensive, heavier, and older bikes than mine, I thought I knew what Lance meant. I thought he meant it was about the rider: the training, the coaching, the determination. I still think that's right. But after registering for the Florida Ironman, last weekend, I found another part of the meaning.

The most important part of the race (for us mortals, not the elites) isn't the finish line, it's the registration. Making the statement, "I WILL do this," is a commitment to yourself. It's about setting a goal, maybe a goal you're not sure you can achieve, but a goal that you're going to shoot for. It's a statement about your commitment to training, diet, rest, learning, hurting, and inconvenience. Just making that commitment, and heading down that path, means more than crossing the finish line.

Why do I know this? Because when I hit the submit button at the end of the Ironman registration form, I felt something different. Moreso than when I registered for my first triathlon or the Philadelhpia Marathon. Knowing the work that will go into swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and then running 26.2 miles, all within the 17-hour cut-off, I felt both an exhiliarating rush and awe at the level of training I'll have to pick up over the next year. Knowing what it's taken to get in shape for the marathon, and how much more it will take to be able to run a marathon after swimming and biking, I'm still trying to figure out how people fit it all in.

The parallel to someone committing to train for a job is right there. Just making the serious commitment to start working is a statement to the person and her or his community. Training for jobs is hard work, especially for someone who does not have a history of sustained employment. You have to get up early, every morning: that's a change from when you didn't have to get to work. You have to get to bed early enough to get up early. You have to study. You have to be prepared for tests, to participate, and to react in a productive and appropriate way. That's not always the case before training and work. That's a big change for many MCC students. Sometimes, it's the most important change of all - making a commitment to yourself to do something that is going to make things better for you in the long run.

You can help people who have made that commitment to employment. By donating now, you will help Metropolitan Career Center train unemployed Philadelphians for jobs to support their families. Imagine, by the time the new year comes around, your contribution will have helped someone complete training, get a job, and live up to the commitment they have made to themselves.

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