Competition; Why Do Some of Us Put Ourselves Through the Emotional ups and downs of Racing?

Its that Uwharrie time of year again when my TrailHead running group spends all of Dec and Jan preparing for their 40,20, or 8 mile trail races in the woods of Troy, NC.  I love that this race is such a big focus for my running group, its so nice to have so many people to train with during the dark and cold winter months.

Uwharrie, for me, was my very first trail race..it was also my very first Ultra, and was also my very first time placing in the top three over all (not just in my age group.)  It launched me into my ultra career (if you can call it that..)  Either way, it holds very special memories for me, but I am not a person that tends to do the same race over and over, so this year I am not running it again.

Several of my friends and training partners are, however.  Some people get stir crazy and have loads of energy, some people get grumpy, others get phantom pains, and of course others get all of the above.   It reminds me of my dreaded taper tantrums, which I have come to both love and hate.  (My husband just mostly hates my taper tantrums,) but they are part of being a competitive runner.  Now when I say competitive runner, don’t misunderstand my meaning, I think everyone can be competitive if they choose…whether its competitive with yourself, with a certain time goal, with people in your age group, or competitive with the whole field hoping to win overall.

Most recently I was talking to one of my friends, Jordan, who is hoping for an overall win.  He has trained hard, recovered correctly, and eaten right.  He has the physical, psychological, and emotional potential to win Uwharrie outright and is currently in that emotional holding pattern right before the race where this imagined weight is crushing him.  The weight is that of his expectations, and of other people’s expectations…but mostly his.  He knows right now that he has all this kinetic energy that is loaded up in his legs to potentially carry him a win, but there is always the unknown that can bring you down and mess up your desired outcome.

We can only control our preparation, and our planning, its impossible to control race day mishaps.  To some people, this lack of control drives them nuts in the 48 hours leading up to a race.  We get moody, we get angst, we can’t concentrate or relax….so why put oneself through this?

My answer:  It makes me feel more alive, it makes the thrill of hitting or surpassing your goal that much sweeter!   Its the same way a terrible defeat can make a later victory that much better.   Do it for the ear to ear grin when your hard work pays off!

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