We Run

Adam Ersland's picture

The evolution of a competitive family.

On September 6, I ran. Well, actually, we ran. Along with two of my younger brothers and my sister, I ran in The Rut at Big Sky. My sister and I ran the 11k, while my two brothers tackled the 50k. As I reflect on the race and the sense of accomplishment we all felt, I realize that my family has changed over the years. We've gone from very competitive to something far different, far better. First, some background.

 The Rut Big Sky. Montana
When Lone Peak is along the route, finishing is reward enough.

There are five siblings in my family. There's me, my three younger brothers, and our baby sister. For as long as I can remember, we've loved sports and the competitive juices that come along with them. As the oldest, it was my job to beat my brothers in everything and constantly remind them how much better I was. My sister never played team sports, but that doesn't mean that the competitive juices aren't coursing through her veins as well. A nice family card game of Nerts makes that apparent. Being competitive shaped us into the adults we are today and helped us tackle obstacles and difficulties head-on.

Running the Rut, however, showed me that we've changed. Maybe it has to do with the sport of trail running itself. Hundreds of runners compete and some of them are phenomenal athletes. The prospect of winning these races is ludicrous; in fact finishing in the top 50 would be an accomplishment in itself. It was my brother that told me trail running isn't about winning, but rather about finishing. When you embrace that motto, running becomes so much more than just, well, running. It becomes marveling at this beautiful state we live in. It becomes enjoying the family and people we're running with. It becomes embracing the pain. It becomes competing with yourself and the trail. Epic.

As I crossed the finish line a few weekends ago, I felt amazing. Sure my legs were throbbing and my back hurt and I desperately needed water, but I was proud of myself. I didn’t win anything or beat anyone. I just finished, and never felt better. As I hugged my parents and other family and friends, their smiles and pats on the back told me they were proud as well. My sister's face as she crossed told me she was feeling the same exact emotions as me. We had to wait some time for my brothers to finish their race,—after all they decided to run over 30 miles through the mountains—but as the ten-hour mark approached, sure enough, around the bend came my two brothers running side-by-side.

It’s hard for me to express in words the emotions I felt as I saw them. They weren't running hard to see which one would finish first. They were simply finishing. Side-by-side, with smiles on their faces, they crossed the line to hugs and kisses from their friends and family. I stood back for a bit and just watched them and that same sense of pride and accomplishment that I had felt hours earlier was all over their faces. I think it's rare for the oldest sibling to look up to the younger ones, but in that moment, I looked up to them. I wanted to be them.

The Big Sky Rut, Big Sky, Montana                     Smiles all around.

As I gave my brother a big hug after he finished, he asked, "How did you do?”

Amazing. He wasn’t concerned about his time, who he beat, or if he could he have done better. His first thought was about me.

So who knows what's changed since we were kids, when all we wanted to do was beat each other and gloat about it. Is it the fact that we're older? Are we more mature? Or does it have to do with the nature of trail running? Maybe it has to do with all three but one thing is for certain: this family has changed, and evolved, from a competitive family to a running family.

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