There’s this thing that happens in my life too frequently to be normal. When I’m working out at a particular park in East Orange and I reach the final stretch of my workout—the very last sprint, last wall run, or last set of pull ups—inevitably someone will appear and challenge me. Usually this challenger will be 10-15 years my senior. This happens so frequently that I literally have an arch nemesis named Osiris who for my seminary years would challenge me to a one-on-one, beat me, then rebuke me for my lack of knowledge of black history. This is actually a thing in my life.
And it happened again today…
I was working out at the park and at the very last 100 meter sprint a man walks up to me and says, “You do the 4?”(400 meter dash)
And I’m like, “No. I did the 1 and the 2 in high school.”
”Really?” he says. “I run too.”
We get to talking and it turns out that this man is a national champion sprinter from Guyana. And to prove it to me he shows me a picture of him and his 8 medals. And no, my Guyanese friends, I did not get his name. Because honestly given my track record with being scammed by random strangers, I didn’t know if I should believe him. I mean anyone could take a picture of themselves with random medals. And let’s not forget that at this point I am dead tired so I just wanna get this last sprint in and go home.
So the conversation goes on and I tell him I have to get going.
”Yeah?” he says. “C’mon, let’s get a run.”
Whoop there it is. Like clockwork.
So we get down in position and he counts off.
Mind you, this man looks like he’s in his late forties, mid fifties, at LEAST 45–on a good day. So even on the off chance that he really was Guyana’s national champion, he’s past his prime. So I’m probably not gonna get my behind handed to me.
Little did I know…
And we’re off.
Not only is this man fast, but he seems to accelerate with every step. Immediately I realize I haven’t had to run this fast since college. Because as you may know, grown men don’t race people unless you’re actually in track and field. So my body is scrambling to dust off the stick shift and switch into race gear.
On top of this man being fast, he’s talking to me mid-race and reminding me that we’re running “To the tree! To the tree!”
On top of that, when we make it to the tree—spoiler alert, he beats me—he immediately turns around, gives me a high five, and begins to give me feedback on my performance.
He’s talking like we just finished a light jog. Meanwhile my body is on fire. I think I’m about to pass out. I’m like a car that’s been sitting in a garage all winter and I just blasted off from 0 to 60 without warming up. I feel like I’m about to die. And yet I feel so alive. I haven’t been pushed like that in too long. And then I hear what he’s saying to me.
”Yeh cyant look back. I saw you lookin’ at me. Keep your eyes on the finish line.”
And it hit me. How often do we need to hear that?
If you’ve got a goal you’re trying to accomplish, don’t look to the left or to the right at how well other people are doing. Don’t look back at how good you used to be or on the mistakes you used to make. Keep your eyes on the prize.
Yeh cyan’t look back.