It started out innocently enough, as it always does. I didn’t mean to race the guy. It just kind of happened. I was looking for someone who was going about my pace, maybe a little faster, so I could push myself just the teensiest bit and maybe shake the chains off my legs. (All the biking I’ve been doing has left them tight and heavy.)
But once I fell in behind him, I couldn’t bring myself to let go, even when he seemed to pick things up a bit on the down hill. I kept right on his shoulder, just far enough away to not be annoying (I hope), but close enough that he knew I was still there and would keep running. We got to the flat and I wondered how long I could keep it up, or if I should try to pass him. It hardly crossed my mind that I could slow down and that, with a full day ahead, slowing down would have been a really smart move. Instead, I kept up the pace, even after he veered off to get a drink, and spent all of my energy before breakfast. Oops.
Yes, I’m a bit competitive and it sometimes gets me into trouble. But competitiveness does have a place, a very important place when I’m running. Subtle, unspoken races in the midst of a longer run are a great way to push past the point of laziness/pain and reach toward my maximum potential. Running alongside someone who may be just a smidge faster helps me run faster, too. Comparing and competing for mileage with someone encourages me to put in more miles. And racing against my previous times improves my speed and strength and stamina. I’m happier and healthier when I can see that I’m improving.
Even in day-to-day life, competitiveness can be a blessing. One of my best friends taught me that. I would not have tried so hard in school if I hadn’t been sitting next to her. And because of her work ethic, intelligence, and determination, I saw what it took to succeed. We ran side by side (figuratively speaking) throughout high school and both finished with personal bests.
But, of course, a competitive life is not all personal records and happy surprises. Not by a long shot. In fact, on a day-to-day basis, being super-competitive . . . stinks. Lots of disappointment. Lots of rejection. Lots of confusion. It’s fairly exhausting, in the worst possible way. I’ll tell you more about it later. Look for Part 2 in a couple of days. (Thursday, if all goes well.)