The Art of Abandoning Competition

I started The Fault in Our Stars on Monday and finished it last night, so you'll forgive me if this post is occasionally interrupted by hiccupy sobs. We can talk about that another day.
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In case you hadn't heard, yesterday was National Running Day, and I celebrated with a couple miles around town. I tried out a different route through a different neighborhood, over some new hills and with some new scenery. For most of my run, it was everything I love about running.

But I ended up cutting what I'd hoped would be a long run down a bit, because I started to feel some unfamiliar pain in my left ankle and my feet.

If you read this post, you know that I started running back in December with the help of "my trainer," a seasoned runner who was there to field all my newb questions. You'll also know that we don't speak or see each other anymore. You'll also know that I firmly believe that runners need runners.
Runners also need rollers and nubby ball things. Heh.
Luckily, my friend Lisa {who I went to visit in Raleigh last month and who just launched her own blog to track her running progress — go say hi!} is also a runner, and even luckier {don't hate me, Lisa! xo}, she's snagged herself a seasoned runner boyfriend! {By seasoned runner, I mean he's run more marathons than I've run miles. Probably.}

He was gracious enough to field a truckload of questions about my pain last night via iMessage, and his advice was really, really helpful. I noted in my conversation with him that I had a "race*" coming up this weekend, and it got me thinking about something.

I saw a tweet a while back — it was a retweet, and I can't remember by whom, so I don't know what it said verbatim or who to attribute it to — that said something about how bloggers are colleagues, not competitors. That, essentially, blogging is not something we do to be better than someone else. Whether your blog is your business or your hobby, other bloggers are not the enemy or obstacles to the top.

If we're doing it right, I think, we're being inspired by each other. We're sharing our lives and our stories with people from all over the world. We're building friendships and alliances with people who are so much like us and who are so different from us too.

I'm inspired every day by all of you. Your stories are inspiring in how they show your strength, sense of self, compassion for others, passion for important issues. Your posts demonstrate your kindness and kick-assness. I'm inspired by your storytelling abilities to be a better storyteller myself; your humor inspires me to go for the punch line every time; your determination to be brutally honest and bare your soul is too inspiring for words.

So I think that blogger — does anyone know the tweet I'm referring to? — nailed it. We're colleagues, not competitors.

It's how I feel about runners too. I am never almost never in real competition with another runner. The person I am always competing against is myself. My calf muscles. My lungs. The lazy voice in my head that asks why I'm even bothering. The nag in my foot that tries to persuade me to stop. The little part of me that feels convinced this hill will never peak. I compete with my last race time, my last run's average mile pace. My last off day and my last incredible run.

Sure — sometimes, I "use" other runners as I compete with myself. If I hear a runner coming up behind me: don't let them pass you. don't let them pass you. don't let them pass you. If I see one approaching in the opposite direction, I pick out a halfway point between us: you better reach that light post before he does! And like bloggers, other runners can be incredible motivation: She's pushing a stroller and running faster than you. Move your ass! or One day I'll have a collection of marathon t-shirts to wear on social runs like he does. But not if I don't get through this measly three-miler with a little more grace than this!

So what I mean to say is, whether you're blogging or running or lifting or yoga-ing or writing or launching a business or trying to reach a savings goal or attempting whatever it is you attempt to do {discover, I think?} with cold fusion, take a look at the others around you who are attempting the same thing.

At first glance, it's so easy to see someone with the same goals as you as a competitor. As if there's only room for one great blogger? One genius business idea? One record-breaker? Only one person can master scorpion pose? No way. Let's resolve to let go of the imagined competition, enemies and obstacles where there are none, and instead let ourselves be inspired by all the downright astounding examples out there just waiting to inspire us. And in that pursuit may we strive to become those inspirations for others. Because I don't know about you, but I'd rather be surrounded by good company at any level than sitting all alone at the tippy top.

You guys inspire me all the time, and I'm ecstatic every day to go on this blogging adventure with all of you surrounding me. xo

{*I'm taking part in the Color Me Rad 5k this weekend, but it's a fun run that I'll just be thrilled to enjoy with two of my incredible coworkers — I'm not running this one for time, so I'm not keen on calling it a race.}

Comments

  1. i never see anyone doing what i'm doing as a competitor; in fact, i see them an my peer and my inspiration. i love reading about their stories and where they're going with their fitness. i guess some people need that type of motivation (competition) to push through but i need inspiration and all these fitness peeps i follow - brooke, jessi, liz, jessica, meghan/rebekah, you -- all inspire me to push harder.

    i run with a friend who is super fit; she had a baby and then ran the fucking tough mudder. when we run trails together, we push each other to run harder/faster. these days i can only hike because of my knee so she slows down and hikes with me. in my mind, it's all about supporting one another; that's the way that you get to your goals :)

    -kathy
    Vodka and Soda

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  2. I so agree!! This was such a good read. I actually relish advice and I think the best thing I ever learned is that you never stop learning. So why be jealous of another, learn from them and be their colleague maybe they can learn from you too! Unfortunately though although I love my profession ... its the same anywhere you go in the world, lawyers compete and its a high anxiety job. I am trying to ensure I never get that way.

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  3. this is such a well written lovely post girly. i struggle so much with the whole competitor thing, in life in general, but not n running. sure, like you i use other runners to motivate or whatever (keep up with that girl, oh she's long gone, pick someone else to keep up with) but i'm never mad or jealous of runners if they do better than me or worse than me -I need to apply that to life.

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  4. I'm over here just nodding, like yep...mmhmmm...totally...I completely agree! I love running because it's the ultimate competition: me vs. me. I love how you explained what it really means to "compete" against other runners. I definitely try to pass people, but it's not about them, it's about me. They're just placeholders, they represent a target of a place I know I can get to - but I have to beat myself to do it, not them. I'm competitive in the sense that I like to do well when running (I'm nowhere good enough to REALLY compete haha), because it means I did my best. I've placed in my age group (in VERY small races) with times that weren't even my best. While it's fun to get my name called and get a cool medal, I'd rather finish dead last with a new PR than finish first with a mediocre time.

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  5. You're amazing and I love you. That is all.

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  6. I totally agree. there is enough room for everyone. it doesn't always seem like that, but it's true!

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  7. I have to start collaborating with other bloggers more, and this posts reminded of that! It's great to have someone along side of you, who understands the importance of what you're working on, and who wants to see it succeed as much as you do.

    I have spinning buddies, and they definitely make going to class easier!

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  8. This is the most amazing post I have read all day! You are so right. I dont compete with others well except when the crossfitters are running.. Im thinking to myself dont be a wimp if they keep going so can you LOL

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