Sunday, March 07, 2010


Two years ago I wrote about female runner competitiveness and for whatever reason it's been marinating around in my brain all morning. I'm sure it has something to do with all the races going on around town and the stunningly perfect race weather we have today!

I've always been known to be a competitive person. My mother used to make fun of me when I was little for getting upset if I didn't win something. In 5th grade my teacher gave out apple cards for excellent work. I had over 100 of them, at least triple the amount of the kid with the next highest amount. I was one of those kids.

This even translated into running way back when. Every year as part of the presidential physical fitness test my class had to run a "long" race--I think it was a mile, but all I remember is running all around the big school yard. I came in second every year to a girl who flunked twice and although I was proud of myself and knew it wasn't quite a fair fight, it still irked me that she always won!

This trait has served me well. As an adult it manifests itself less as competitiveness and more type-A-ness. I see something I want and I go for it (well, that's certainly an oversimplification!) But with running sometimes, it's easy to fall back into that childish competitiveness: I want more ribbons than so-and-so! How did SHE beat me? And so on and so forth.

It's easy for me to see this now that I can't compete. It seems silly that I ever got caught up in any of that. I am embarrassed to admit that I've stooped to getting mad that I could never outrun a particular person or even comparing myself as a runner to anyone. I'm sure I'm not alone in having these adolescent impulsive thoughts. As much as I know we're not supposed to think that way, it's almost an automatic response when towing the line. And really, it's a damn shame.

I was trying to think where these thoughts come from. Is it a girl thing? Girls seem to be fairly competitive with each other about all kinds of things: who has better clothes; a hotter boyfriend, etc. I'm sure much of it has to do with insecurity and just plain ol' jealousy. It just seems like one of those under-evolved mindsets that we often fall into that will never change unless we work really hard to change them (or that never beset some of us who are very self-assured and highly evolved to begin with--unfortunately not me much of the time!)

Whatever the reason I really want to get to a place where I am happy with me and happy with everyone else's success. When I have a chance to step back and think about it I always am happy for others' success, but when I am feeling down and out it's easy to automatically focus on others rather than myself. When I first started this post I thought the key to improving this situation was to have kinder thoughts towards others but as I write I am realizing the key is to be more accepting of myself and the rest will follow.

My grand vision is to foster success among all female runners. Instead of hoping my competitors choke, I want to hope they bring their A-game and raise my game along with theirs and vice versa. I want to inspire more women to compete at a higher level even if that means they leave me in their dust along the way. I am not selfless, though. I want to raise my game too, but I think the best way to do that is to quit focusing on what everyone else is doing and all the things I'm doing wrong and focus on doing my best and appreciating what my life has to offer me and what my own muscly strong legs can do.


Michelle Simmons said...

I think you're right about how it really helps when you're happy with what YOU are doing- makes it easier to accept the success of others. :)

Laura said...

Nice entry. I agree it's so important to take a break, and step back from being competitive and driven once in a while.

jsmarslender said...

I thought about some of this - accepting yourself, especially - when I had Claire and realized I wanted to be a great example to her.

I've never raced consistently in one area (since high school), so I haven't developed that "I want to beat so and so." Right now I'm antsy to train again for 2011 spring/summer races but know that it'll be hard for me to be smart about competing against some of my previous times. I'll need to first figure out where I am in 2011 and then see what I might do...

E-Speed said...

Great post!

DC Running Mama said...

It's funny, but I just feel like I have a sense of who's faster than me and who's not and just kind of chalk it up to "nothin' I can do about it." So, I don't get too competitive about the people I know and run w/ on a regular basis. It's the people that I DON'T know at races that I'm more competitive with. Plus, I don't think I look like a hard-core runner and think it's fun to beat people that look like hard-core runners. This being said, maybe I should be more competitive with my "friendly neighbor runners" and I would improve.