Chasing the Competition

“Dwell on the positive, but have controlled, passionate anger.”
…Pat Tyson, running coach

I am a very competitive person. Though I have never won a race or been a contender in the big picture, I am constantly pushing myself to improve, comparing myself against others of similar physique and my own past performances.

A little competition can be a good thing. It moves us forward and keeps us from being complacent. It allows us to seek higher goals, pushing ourselves and continuing to reap new mental and physical benefits.

But too much competition can be detrimental. Constantly judging our self worth by others’ results can tear us down emotionally and mentally.

I recently found out that a rival of mine – an old acquaintance that I have since found myself competing against in various races – has recently run a pretty terrific race, setting a new PR for herself and beating my best performance by a decent margin. While I would love to say I had positive thoughts – being happy for someone’s huge accomplishment – I must admit I was pretty upset with the news. At first I found myself scurrying to action – furiously planning speed workouts and ways I could improve quickly, searching for fast courses on which I could gain an edge for a hopeful PR. But I found I was spinning my wheels, exhausting myself emotionally over something that I could not control.

I realized I needed to focus on the positive in this case. I’ve had some good runs recently, I’ve kept up my goal of diligent cross-training and weight-lifting, and I have some fun races on my calendar to look forward to (I always seem to perform better when fun is present and stress is dissipated). All I can do at this point is keep working, keep chugging forward. I can use my competitive drive – this controlled passion - to get out there everyday and put in the necessary work. The idea that if I slack off, someone else is out there training while I’m not, can be a helpful way to encourage me off my couch or out of bed for those workouts I’m not really jazzed about.

And mentally, I cannot let someone else’s success break down my own confidence and motivation. I have to believe that every time I tie on my shoes for a run that this workout will help me succeed. I have to believe that I can create the outcome I want with determination and hard work.

“To succeed you have to believe in something with such a passion that it becomes a reality.”  …Anita Roddick

Without bogging yourself down, how do you push yourself harder? What is driving you this week?

4 comments Add your comment


May 14th, 2010
10:19 am

The calendar showed me we have 7 weeks until Peachtree. I want a sub 38:00 to keep my sub-seeded number and that is what is pushing me. Like you, I put fun races on my calendar for the rest of the year and don’t want the “qualifier” to be hanging over my head.

I have found that running my route backwards helps with the monotony and reenergizes my drive.

Daniel Norton

May 14th, 2010
10:26 am

I had a very similar experience recently. I have a lot of friends on who are pretty much on my level. However, while I was battling a bout of ITBS leading up to my last marathon, a couple of them really ramped up their training and ran unbelievable races that put them out of my league. Now, I’m working to get back to where I was before the injury, and they are still improving. It’s tough to balance wanting your friends to succeed and wanting to be on a competitive level with them without overdoing your own training.

To avoid frustration, I’ve had to learn to accept where I am and find satisfaction in small improvements. Improving my 4 mile tempo run from 28:45 to 28:20 in a week is a win. It’s not where I think I could be, but it’s closer.


May 16th, 2010
10:09 am

It is good to have benchmarks, comparisons and personal goals for motivation. At the same time, ask yourself, what are the negative consequences if I don’t reach them? There really aren’t any. Unless you are truly among the elite, most of us run for fitness and fun; and to test ourselves. Remember why you are doing this. If you don’t reach your goal, is your health negatively affected? Only if you stress about it, otherwise it is a win.


May 16th, 2010
10:50 am

Just trying to stick to my training plan and know that the hardwork I put in today, will eventually pay off.