If you can’t be great, be good

Late last year, I was listening to an episode of the On Coaching podcast with Steve Magness and Jon Marcus in which they interviewed Mike Smith, whose men’s team at Northern Arizona University had just won the NCAA Cross Country Championship.

In the interview, one quote especially stood out to me: “If you can’t be great, be good.”

It may seem that, to some of the fastest collegiate runners, this quote might mean something different than it does to a middle aged runner with a full time job and a family, as many of us are, but I’d argue it means essentially the same thing and applies to us just as much as it does to them.

To the NAU runners, it meant you can still finish in the top 50 or top 100 at the NCAA meet even if you can’t be All American. It meant you might not be an individual champion but you can still put up a top 10 or top 20 result to help your team’s score. It meant you might not make varsity but you can push the 7th runner to make him better. In short, do what you can.

To us, it means you can’t quit your job but you can fit your running around your work schedule. It means nobody would expect you to prioritize running over family but you can find time within your family structure and make the most of it.

In short, you do just what those NAU athletes are doing. You do what you can.

In this way, our circumstances may be different but we’re all chasing the same thing. We’re all trying to make the most of the circumstances in front of us. If we can’t be great, we can still be good and that’s what we should be striving for.

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