Some Thoughts on Competition

I’m a competitive person. I mentioned it in my first post here because running was something that really helped me realize this about myself. For some time, I kind of felt ashamed for being as competitive as I felt inside – it’s pretty easy to feel like competition can turn into ego boosting and cockiness. But I’ve since learned to embrace it and have found ways to navigate healthy feelings of competition.

As I started placing in my age group during quite a few 5Ks, it started to feel amazing to be pushing myself and seeing what I was capable of. Now, through my entire time racing and even just during training runs, my approach has evolved into more of an inner competition than outward. I don’t run to beat the person in front of me – I run to 1-up my previous time, to see what my legs can do. That said, if I’m running at pace with someone or feel like there is a bit of friendly competition between us, I make sure to congratulate the other person at the end of the race regardless of where we place in relation to each other. This recently happened between a lovely woman and myself during A Most Excellent Race in June. We were both congratulatory at the finish line – that felt better than any time or ranking I could have achieved. Competition is something that is always in the back of my mind, but it’s not what fuels me. It certainly doesn’t make me bitter toward races that don’t go as well as planned or even fellow runners that happen to outrace me.

On the other hand, there are some races that make me throw any thoughts about competition out the window and just run. R and I certainly ran an incredible race last month and, yes, we were hoping deep down inside to place well in the coed team category, but with concerns about the heat and the nature of this particular race, we knew this one was more about community and fun than anything. Our approach to this one was a bit more “relaxed” when it came to judging our performance. We ended up so happy about our times that it didn’t even matter where we landed in the final rankings – we ran fast, well, and we got to celebrate with some beer and fun afterwards.

In comparison to my approach using inner competition and goals, I have a friend that gets worked up about weather, crowds, and, if you ask me, puts too much pressure on the fun runs. Worrying whether you’ll place, run faster than your friends, or be able to get out of the parking lot before everyone else takes away from the entire experience. This makes me frustrated and I wonder if there should be disclaimers on certain race registrations – remember the meaning of it all! Whether you’re running for a charity, fun, or your health, it doesn’t matter where you place. Run your best and have a good time. Ultimately: Be happy! When running is stripped of enjoyment and turns into a stressful and potentially disappointing experience, what’s the point? Before this turns into a rant, I’ll stop at a final thought: competition is good, healthy, and normal, but should it be your only focus when running?

-K

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