Eric The Runner
There was a kid in my high school named Eric. I am from a small town where if you have a popular name, like John or Dave… or Eric, you get a nickname. I did not know Eric well. I know he was a nice kid. Quiet. And he ran. He ran cross-country. He ran long runs on the weekend and so everyone called him “Eric the Runner.” On the last day of the 2016 Rio Olympics, I watched the Men’s Olympic Marathon and watched Eric cross the finish line: tenth fastest person in the world. Eric is not a super machine from a country I have never visited. He was a kid from my small-town high school. He is a father of two and just a very sincere, unassuming guy.
On his bio page, Eric lists his favourite motto as, “progress not perfection.” His motto has been doing laps in my head since I read it. Progress not perfection. Sounds so simple. But simple and easy are two different things. Improving from one day to the next sounds so simple. Following a workout routine. Staying connected with loved ones. Being a patient father. These are all simple. I know how to do them, but they take effort, they take commitment.
At a glance, coming tenth in the world took 2 hours, 12 minutes, and 59 seconds. That means he ran 42.2 kilometres at a faster pace than I can sprint. But much longer than two-plus hours, the accomplishment took decades of training and planning. It took saying “No” to countless donuts and beers. It took thousands of times choosing early morning runs over sleeping in. It took running in bad weather. It took overcoming negative self-talk and doubt. It took progress, not perfection.
I would do well to live by Eric’s motto. Whatever I want to change in my life - learning a language, playing a musical instrument, tackling an athletic feat – I would do well to remember not to bite off too much. Practicing guitar for two hours once in a while is less effective than practicing for 15 minutes every day. It is less sensational, but more effective.
Sometimes, we encounter a task or goal and we let the enormity of it unnerve and overwhelm us. Perfection is intimidating and paralyzing. But deciding to improve each day is possible (not easy, but possible). Yes we need to “have the end in mind” but it does not always need to be at the front of our mind. Sometimes, we just need to focus on getting out of bed, on getting out the door, on getting to the next telephone pole, on taking the next step in the right direction.
Congratulations, Eric-the-Runner, on your 42.2 kilometre run in Rio and your tenth place finish. And congratulations on all the kilometres that got you there. Also, thank you. Thank you for representing Canada with so much integrity and for inspiring me to strive for progress, not perfection.