Thursday, September 16, 2010


Thank you all for humoring me with your comments on my previous post and your personal testimonials on how FAST applies to you. I really enjoyed the stories of those who strive to reach their own goals regardless of what the world outside may think of their personal achievements. This is NOT to say that there is anything wrong with competition or using the standards of others to motivate oneself (as I've been accused of saying multiple times before...), my point is merely that we should NOT use our own measures of success to judge the goals and achievements of others. Just as it is my goal to do my best and run a good time in every race I enter does not mean that the less ambitious goals (i.e. just finishing or just participating) are any less worthwhile for those who train and aim for such goals. In a similar vein, running my best and aiming for a good time would not jive for those who are elite/professional who set out to WIN every race or age group award. The way I see it, we are runners all SHARING the same race course but individually STRIVING for different goals. As long as we don't get in each other's way, I for one am perfectly fine with that. My wish is that all my fellow runners would feel the same way.

Usually though I find that is often not the case. Those who thrive on competition feel as if those who run or race for anything less than to be "the best" isn't worthy of compliments and adoration. After all, those who are at or near the top must literally spend the majority of their time, running, training, and perfecting their skill. They run faster and more in a day than what the majority of runners would run in a week! In their eyes, running fast and racing is the only way to run and the only way to have fun. They often harbor the perspective that the slower runners who run slow and "just for fun" don't deserve any more respect than those who aren't even running at all.

In contrast, those who are non-competitive or competitive only with themselves, do not feel as if racing for an award, a goal time or a personal record is the only way or even the preferable way to run a race. If you ask that crowd, they'd say that running for its own sake is its own reward. Merely completing a longer distance race or marathon is for them a worthwhile accomplishment. Some of the people who are in this category don't even enter races. they run just for fun. They run just for health. They run in memory of a loved one. They run merely because they can. They all have goals and work hard in their own personal way to achieve them. So what if their goal isn't as glamorous as some others, they deserve a fighting chance at success (as they chose to define it) just as much as the next speedy guy or gal.

it may come as a shock to some that I do not regard myself as a competitive runner. Yes, I might be relatively faster than average and find myself more often closer to the front of the pack than the middle or the back in races. Still, when it comes down to it, I compete more against the clock and with myself more than against other runners. As such, I never gauge my results on the successes or failures of others. In my own mind, what they do and what I do is completely different. If I ran a good race and get a PR, does it make it less worthwhile because somebody else ran a PR too and ran it in a faster time? Or if I ran a horrible race and yet beat all my teammates and friends, does that mean i should be proud of my time and accomplishment? I really do not feel this way. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I discovered running late and never ran competitively at any level of schooling or received any direct coaching. Maybe it's because I didn't know many runners when I started in this sport and trained for my first marathon pretty much on my own, but I've always enjoyed running as an individual pursuit. We each have our own paces, our own training, our own goals. I run hard and train hard, not because I want to be better than everyone else. I do so because I want to be the best runner I can be, regardless of how it relates to others. And nowadays, the more I run (I'm aiming for a 70+ mile week this week...which would be a new training PR for me) the more I am discovering how much I really enjoy the PROCESS of running longer and running faster for its own sake. I'm having fun just comparing myself to me and no one else. Maybe that runs counter-intuitive for many who will read this, but I for one am very content with this approach right now.

Just curious...for the runners out there, if you had to identify yourself as one or the other, do you consider a competitive or non-competitive runner...does your pace, distance, goal as it relates to others (person or peoples) affect your outlook on running? Is that notion inspiring, motivating or debilitating?


Anonymous said...

i find that when i have a race then i am a wicked competitive person and to show up with anything but my best is unacceptable. in everyday running, however, i try to cut myself a little slack. i'm still competitive and like every run to be better than the last but it's not the goal. when i have a race that goes all out the window hahah!

baker said...

But, I'm only competitive because I run/bike/swim my best when I am amongst others in a race. I thrive on chasing after people and trying to keep up with the leaders.

I do however appreciate all of my fellow athletes goals and dreams, whether it be to just finish a marathon, or to lose weight. We are all out there chasing after something personal, and I think that's one of the most amazing and inspirational things about running.

Robin said...

I respect anyone who's on their feet running, being active, and promoting a healthy lifestyle. However, I think I'd consider myself competitive. I'm recalling the things I told myself during my last race: I want another age group award, I want to smash my PR, I want to beat Mary W, I love starting in the blue corral with fast people, I want to beat CPTC/NYAC/etc people.. yada yada. It's the type-A in me that can't help but be competitive :p

Anonymous said...

See it much the same way, when I go to a race I'm simply there to get the best out of myself. I know I'm not going to win the race or even be under the top 10/100, but I still enjoy the race event for itself, because I still get a kick from the event itself, which is what makes it fun for me.
Although some "fun" runners don't like to see people who aren't going to be up front taking the race so "seriously" (like taking a carbo drink before the race etc.) because it's only for fun, a point of view that I do have a problem with.
Think this is a bit unfair:
"Those who thrive on competition feel as if those who run or race for anything less than to be "the best" isn't worthy of compliments and adoration."
I think you often find those typ of runners are generaly good at club level, but haven't made it beyond, the ones that do make it are often a little different.
alunpg :-)
sry 4 being so long

kellisor said...

I joke that if there were a prize for being LEAST competitive, I'd win it every time. I can get into a friendly race, but when I do run a timed race, I'm running against myself -- my last time, my last performance. But I'm pretty new to running (1 3/4 years!), so that may change as I get faster and CAN compete. Great post!

Renee said...

I am extremely competitive against the clock and myself. There will always be faster runners. Maybe it comes from my days as a swimmer, but I thrive when competing against faster people, it pushes me. I love getting a PR, but I don't care how it compares to others. Running, swimming, triathlons are all such individual sports. Yes, it's fun to train with others, but it doesn't bother me that we place different. I know some of the people I run with are faster and some are slower, but we all enjoy running. I know I will always compete against myself and that I am ok with.

cg9m said...

non- and thanks for this! (tho admittedly, i happen to agree w/most of your points). it's encouraging that there are folks who feel as you do about everyone racing for their own reasons.
i've had some friends who feel that people shouldn't race unless they're contenders (for a win). but i think racing helps maintain your fitness at a higher level than you might achieve on your own, even if you never have a chance of winning.
i also agree that there isn't a universal standard for all ability levels. eg, i couldn't train for a marathon at the level you do. it's something i might aspire to, and work toward, but may never be physically capable of achieving. (and i do happen to think that, for marathon at least, one should strive for the highest mileage his body allows). also, for 5k, some folks can handle speedwork of 10-12 x 400. others can 'only' handle 6 x 400. should the latter not race? i think they should :)

Anonymous said...

Glad you are enjoying running! I am not competitive. I like to do well and I like to hit my goal time, but if things don't go as planned I just let things roll off. I spent way too many years probably from the time I was about 5 on, playing competitive sports, working hard to make the elite team rosters, or all-star/all-state teams, mvp awards, etc.. Now, I like running cause I find it relaxing and there is no need to compete.

Michelle Simmons said...

Great post! I am a triathlete who also runs, and I've found an interesting difference between the sports (for me)... When I am racing a triathlon, I want to win (not that I normally do, but I try!). However, when I am running a road race, the only thing I care about is my time/pace. I don't care a bit about my place or how fast anyone else I running. It's actually quote liberating because my own pace/result is more within my control than how I fare against others who showed up (or didn't) to the race.

Anonymous said...

I am both competitive and non-competitive. Competitive in the sense that my goal is to run faster than as many other people as possible. Nothing pleases me more than finishing a race and being in the middle of the pack. That (finishing faster than the person in the middle) is success for me.

However, I'm non-competitive in the sense that I'll never, ever, win anything vs other runners in a race, and I'm totally OK with that.

The subtitle of my blog says it all "Quest for marathon mediocrity". There is a quest, and it is to improve (competitive), but just at the 'mediocre', or only moderate, level. (non competitive)

Jamie said...

I'm only competitive with myself. I allow others around me to push me to do my best but I'm not necessarily competing with them. I am definitely too hard on myself when I don't hit the times/expectations I had going into a race.

brooks shoes said...

I am a competitive runner...I enjoy running when I have someone to compete with.

runner26 said...

i would say i'm a non-competitive runner, only because my attitude is always to have fun and enjoy myselt first, and then to do well. but i would also say that i'm quite competitive in almost every other area of life (sometimes to a fault). so whatever that means..

Runners Passion said...

Interesting article. I used to be one of those faster competitive runners who viewed other slower runners who just ran to finish as inferior. However, after graduating college and not finding the time to train competitively I understand that running just to finish or running just to run is quite worthwhile. I now believe anyone who tries to run, no matter thier goals or speed, deserves alot of respect because running is a challenging sport and takes alot of effort and character no matter your goals.

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