It’s time to be real with myself: my glory days are over. I’m past my prime and the days of dreaming to be an Olympic runner are over.
The reality of it is that no matter how hard I train, how well I eat, or how determined I remain, these twig legs of mine aren’t going to get me any gold, prize money, or the honor of calling myself a professional athlete. Yup, I have to face the hard truth that from here on out, I’m running solely for me.
But don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean my fire is out. I still have those stars in my eyes for calling myself the neighborhood champion of every Saturday race. And I still have visions of breezing through a record 5k time of sub-20 minutes (total wishful-thinking). Sure, these goals may not bring me tangible rewards, but upholding them is everything to me as a runner. They control my training. Fuel my determination. And bring me self-worth. I have to attribute every single one of them to the one thing I could never be a successful runner without: my sense of competition.
I’ve faced the fact that the only people who really care if I cross a finish line 10 seconds faster than the last race, is: 1) mama bear, and 2) my boyfriend (because he has to listen to me whine about it all weekend long if I don’t walk away with what I consider a brag-worthy time). And to be real point-blank, I can probably count on one hand how many of my Facebook friends care if I ran a half-marathon or not. So in the scheme of things, one could argue that it’s totally unnecessary for me to put a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself for a short-lived glory that only I will acknowledge, right?
Because as runners, I can’t stress enough how much we all need to bring a healthy dose of competition into our runs.
See, when you’re competitive, you learn to speak in goals. And these zany goals wake you up at 6:30am on a Saturday to run 9 miles around the city before the rest of the world has had a chance to get in your way. They force you to chow down on smart choices vs. that dreamy pizza your crew indulges in on Friday nights. Short and simple: these goals keep you in check.
And eventually all of these weekend long runs and tilapia sundaes will add up and you will conquer those goals. You will overcome every obstacle you put your mind to and you will become a stronger, fiercer competitor for it. But had you not decided to challenge yourself, you would never feel those goosebumps of standing on a podium or clocking a time you’ve never seen on your watch before.
So next time you embark on a new training season or simply just go out for a leisurely jog, I challenge you to challenge YOU. See how you can compete with yourself to become a better athlete than you were yesterday. Whether it’s a faster time, a stronger finish, or merely a more positive outlook, try to make yourself beat what you think you’re capable of.
“Dig deep for that sense of competition hiding within you and put up a fight to discover all of the greatness you can achieve.”