Are you a Self-Competitive Runner?

Jannine Myers

Start of the Monster Mash Half Marathon – Oct 13th, 2012

Congratulations to all the Monster Mashers who got out there in the windy and slightly rainy weather last weekend! I’m not going to lie, that felt like one of the toughest half marathon courses I’ve done yet, although I’m not sure if it was because it was so hilly, or if I just hadn’t trained well for it. Probably a combination of both.

My one consolation, thank goodness, is that I was already familiar with some parts of the route, having run all over Kadena Airbase on numerous occasions.  Also, I had done part of the course a few weeks earlier, to get some idea of what I might be in for. I remember thinking at the time that I would be a fool to run the race, given how I felt on that particular training day, and yet, there I was last weekend, standing at the start line wondering what on earth I was doing there!

What is it about races that they draw us to the start line, even when we are convinced that we’ll stay away? I had been telling myself for several weeks that I would not run the Monster Mash Half Marathon – mainly because a) I hadn’t been doing too well on some of my training runs, and b) I have only been logging on average, around 24 miles a week for the past six months or so (compared to previous training months where I would typically log a minimum of 30 miles a week).

So how did I end up at the start line then? Simple – I told myself I’d just run “for fun.” Who was I kidding? Who runs a half marathon for fun? Or any race for that matter? Okay, okay, some of you actually do run races for fun, and I envy those of you who do. But there are many of you reading this, who like me, don’t like to run a race without challenging yourself.

I don’t see anything wrong with a little self-competitiveness, but when we know we haven’t prepared well for a race, we need to be mindful of the potential to hurt ourselves if we set our sights too high. I’ll be honest, I’m all about visualization and telling myself “I can…..” but I also think that the scope of “I can goals should be realistic. A good friend of mine helped reinforce that idea when she suggested that I treat the race as a “hard training run.” It’s funny how words can make all the difference, but somehow those few words appeased my A-type personality. Essentially, what she was saying, is that I could run hard without pushing beyond my current capability. But more importantly, I could still run hard without injuring myself.

Still, after much back and forth debating, right up until the morning of the race, it was a tough decision to make. Should I run, or should I not run? Finally, with the advice I had received, tucked away in the back of my mind, I made the choice to run, but not “race.” Switching my goal from one which would have forced me to try and finish the race within an unrealistic amount of time, to one which instead allowed for me to run hard but finish comfortably, took an enormous amount of pressure off me. My adjusted goal still required me to “push myself,” but within a safe parameter. The outcome, I imagined, probably wouldn’t be great, but neither would it be disappointing.

My point, I guess, is that sometimes it pays to switch off the competitive button, and play it safe instead. With several other races lined up in the near future, was it really worth putting my body at risk just to try and chase another race PR that I already knew would not be possible? Definitely not!

Some races are worth putting out the all-or-nothing effort, but not all of them are. Practising a little self-restraint, and switching off that competitive button from time to time is not only good for the body, but good for a little character-building as well.

Waving to friends on my way to mile 5