Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tango Start Line

Where are you in the line-up of dancers? How many are ahead of you or behind you?

It does not matter if you are an elite dancer. The great competition is within--and it is a grueling competitive event:  An obstacle course!  The quest is to be the best you can. For dancers I think it is the quest to be able to dance with yourself and with other souls freely -- not merely to be one of the best in the crowd.I learned this philosophy best from running marathons. By far, the majority of those running a marathon do not run to be the best runner. Perhaps they run to challenge themselves to be a healthy, whole person. Elite dancers and athletes too often are not happy with themselves and even give up running or dancing out of their unhappiness with not being able to be "the best." Why would you want to be "elite" if that means "in competition with others"?

Elite dancers and athletes sometime do not appreciate the social dancer or man-on-the-street runner. The "elites" often do not appreciate the social aspect of their vehicle for finding mastery, honed by competition. Once I overheard an elite triathlete talk about how the majority of people should not even show up to the race! I see two problems with this:

First, if only the elite runners or dancers were out in public, the events that pay for their way in life would not even happen and their profession would not get that much attention. Secondly, what this elite athlete did not realize is that we all had one thing in common -- we were all doing the best we could under the circumstances of life. Running far behind the elite athlete, there might be a 45-year old woman who promised herself if she could beat cancer, she'd run a marathon. Behind all of them in the back, there is the guy doing his first Ironman at age 50. That person was me at age 50.

     "Compete against others and you will most always lose;
       compete with yourself and you will most always win."

I was in Vienna, Austria, running my second of 14 marathons when the above words came to me. This is now my motto for life. Competing with oneself may make one better than ever, but that is not the goal. The goal, or better said, the quest, is to do the best you can under the ever-changing circumstances of life.

So do yourself a favor. Try to be more graceful as a dancer, but most of all when the music starts, just dance with the soul in front of you with all your heart. Then, chances are, you are in the quest, and you are "winning" in the most profoundly spiritual way. If you can keep your joy about this quest as the elite dancer may be somewhere far in the back.

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Photo credits:

Marine Marathon --


  1. Thank you Mark for this dedication.. It's an irony that I've never run a marathon or been in an ironman event.....

    But your reminder that when the music starts to dance with the soul in front of me with all my heart is beautiful...


  2. Have you read "Racing Alone" by Nader Khalili?


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