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?