Competitive Nature

I’ve noticed some talk about competitiveness lately in some of the blogs I read. Some have debated whether or not it’s a good thing; others have encouraged it; and still others have talked about a lack of it.

Here’s my two cents: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being competitive, as long as it’s for the right reasons. I am a competitive soul, no doubt. I find that I get competitive in many areas of my life, but mostly it’s to prove something to myself. When I race, I’m competing against my own times. Yes, there are a few girls out there that I’ll admit I enjoy beating. But if they have the better day than I do, I don’t begrudge them that, nor do I fall apart.

Where I think competitive nature turns into a bad thing is when beating others, or a certain someone, is all that drives you. I’ve seen plenty of examples of this in my many years of racing. Someone’s race day is made or broken based on whether or not they beat so-and-so. Even if they PR’d, if they didn’t beat that certain competitor, they’re not happy. That, to me, isn’t quite healthy.

To me, someone who competes solely to beat others is missing out on the big picture. They miss out on that great sense of accomplishment you get by setting a PR, or fighting against a tough course or Mother Nature. In fact, I’d wager that much of the joy of racing is lost when the only thing that matters is beating certain others.

What do you think?

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  1. Big Daddy Diesel says

    "To me, someone who competes solely to beat others is missing out on the big picture. "

    Thats exactly what I think

  2. gmontalvo13 says

    i love being competitive w/myself.
    and sometimes the lady on the treadmill next to me, but she never knows it so that's not really fair :)

  3. LB says

    i feel the same way as you, but im feeling competitiveness in a different way. part of why i had to step away from blogging a couple of months ago


    I am driven by my competitive nature. Growing up it was for grades. Now it's in my running. Fortunately, I have been able to shift my focus from other to myself. But you are right, there are a few people out there that I am psyched to beat …

  5. Emz says

    I used to be EXTREMELY [that's putting it mildly] competitive . . .

    but today my motto is:

    "I was pushed by myself because I have my own rule, and that is every day I run faster, and try harder."

  6. April says

    Completely agree! I love to be able to beat my past race times and set new PRs. If my focus was beating other people I would be miserable all the time because I am not that fast!

  7. amy says

    Generally, I believe that beating a particular individual is a huge bonus, like the icing on achieving other goals like setting a PR, following your game plan, winning the race, etc. It's really hard in the moment to not focus on that individual, but I agree with you that keeping that focus takes something away from everything else you're trying to do, as well as overall enjoyment. Now, if only I could go out and actually do what I say…

  8. Momma K and her Krew says

    I agree. My opponent/advocate/biggest push is myself. In the end thats all that matters. Am i getting fitter/faster/more confident? Then I have won. Those who sign up, train and then show up race day have won over most of their peers who are still only thinking of lacing up their shoes.
    Its fun to be competitive in your brain-visualizing jamming past the 21 year old in the booty shorts, having some sort of killer day and breaking a record/beating your snarky 'friend'. Whatever gets you out there. Butas with all things moderation because if your worth is only found in how well you compete, then life will be teaching you a hard lesson sooner or later. High 5 Zip.

  9. Caroline says

    I agree 100%….for the others are there to help me push myself that's it. For me the goal is to leave it all out..having the tank empty and having done the best I could do that day. running to beat others has to be exhausting mentally, not healthy and also has to take all the joy out of racing.

  10. Jake Rosen says

    I totally agree with you that competitiveness is at its best when it is focused on oneself. Having said that, I like to use the benchmarks and highs of others as a comparison to push my best even further. I don't wish them ill will or negative outcomes, but I do like to know what they have done so I can try to beat it and therefore beat myself.

  11. Stephanie Anne says

    My brother is competitive, but in the bad way. I am as well, but I usually am just competitive with myself. He is constantly putting me down because he is faster or telling me to suck it when he beats me. He drives me nuts. I always have to yell at him to stop!

  12. Paul says

    I agree with you.

    I would add to that a bit and say that even if you are competing with yourself you need to be realistic about what your body can and can't do…

    Typical bad things would be trying to run your favorite morning run just a bit faster every week (gak!), kicking up mileage too get the picture.

    People can be too competitive with themselves.

  13. Jess @ Blonde Ponytail says

    What a great point…there is so much more to running and racing. I am competitive with myself but I lie the running community so much more.

    But, don't get me wrong, if I can chick someone, i'm going to try!!

  14. Jennifer says

    I love being competitive! I admit it. But, since I am so NOT a contender, for me it is a mind game that helps me get through the end of a hard race; seeing someone ahead and imagining myself flying by them. It's fun and it works for me. I am out there because I love to run and I guess I don't reckon I care much what anybody else thinks about why I am running. Good post and a fun topic to discuss!

  15. The Sean says

    The only competition is in finding the best version of yourself. The rest is distraction, detracting from this goal.

  16. ajh says

    One of the things I like about running is being able to be competitive with myself. I liked that about swimming when my kids swam on swim teams too.

  17. Aimee says

    I totally agree! I'm not that competitive, but it does come out during some races. But, I'm mostly competitive against myself. I don't think I've ever had a time when I was thinking about beating a certain person…that's just crazy!

  18. marathonmaiden says

    I go back and forth whether I like competitiveness. I definitely thrive on it but sometimes it makes things soooooo mental

  19. Jim ... 50after40 says

    Great points … when I was younger, I used to miss this point a lot more than I do now. I was really disappointed a couple of years ago when I ran my best 5K, but got second in my age group. My wife was great support and reminded me that all I could do was my best, and somedays there might just be someone better. Since then, I take it in stride a lot more, and focus on being the best I can be. Competing with myself is a lot more rewarding.

  20. J says

    Competition is a tough thing. I know a lot of girls are really nice but often when we get into the racing scene they are quiet and don't talk because its all about beating each other! Sometimes I wish we could just enjoy the competition and not worry so much about who actually wins and just be happy with our personal wins!

  21. Adrienne says

    Nicely put. I'm uber-competitve by nature (hence why I may be injury prone:/) with myself. I'm always racing Adrienne, nowadays, I'm trying to balance the competitive side with just being "within" my own experience.

    Hope that makes sense!

  22. BabyWeightMyFatAss says

    I really only compete against myself and well Old Man Carl who does races out here. And on occasion I still want to beat that one person whose been a PITA to me the last few years but other than that I really don't compete. I mean really I came in last for women at Chicago. Can't go further than that!

  23. Molly says

    oh yes, you know I was thinking about this last week. I keep reminding myself of why I started racing in the first place, I'm putting myself back into focus. That's what it's all about. : )

  24. Meg says

    I always try to get women to talk about competition and running but many back away from the subject. I think some feel bad about racing to beat someone but I just heard Kara Goucher talking on the subject and she feels absolutely no embarrassment at all on the subject. It seems like the elite athletes consider it a high priority to be competitive. Since I am not an elite athlete and don't even try to be one, I compete against myself and continue to try to improve at each and every race. I, like you, have about two friends that I secretly like to "try" to beat and, of course, my husband and I have an unspoken drive to one up the other at races but that seems more in fun than out of sheer desire to beat someone. I would like to explore this topic further, thanks for posting on this topic!

  25. Running and living says

    I race for PRs mostly, but sometimes for the win (in smaller races when I have a chance). I have gotten faster than all my running friends, but in the past I loved to compete with them. Sometimes they'd have a better day, other times I would, but that competitiveness made everything fun. And of course we hugged it out at the end:)

  26. AbigailRuns says

    I love this post! As much as I'd love to be competitive, I'm a new runner who just runs right now because it makes me feel amazing and I love the bonds that I've formed with other really supportive people :) I hope that once I begin trying to PR, I don't lose sight of that fact.

  27. Happy Feet 26.2 says

    I truly wish I had more competitive drive to "beat" others. It's all about me baby! I'm racing against my time. Yes, there are a few people that I prefer to finish ahead of, but either way, it's still about my time at the end of "my" day. I think if I was a little more competitive it would help at the end of some of my shorter races. I have friends who will puke to get the person in front of them. I'm not jealous of that drive at all, but I do wish I had a little more competitive spirit in me.

  28. La Historiadora de Moda says

    I'm not particularly competitive with my running. I like to do better and get new PRs and all that, but I don't compare myself to other runners very often. I am more competitive in some of the other areas of my life, but I try never to let it get to an unhealthy level.

  29. Jamie says

    Sometimes I like to be a little tiny bit competitive with others. But only sometimes. I'll admit it does get stressful if it happens too often. I REALLY like to be competitive with myself. It makes me work harder, I think. :)

  30. Jason says

    We are so on the same page. I am a competitor and it is with myself. I don't ever notice the names around me on a list of finishers b/c I don't know these people and I stare at my times and think about how I could have been better.

    I also love watching competition as I pointed out in my blog because to me it is people pushing themselves to be better than they were and I think that is big in this world.

    Making yourself better day in and day out benefits you and also pushes others to be better as well.

  31. racing dawn says

    competitive with myself which sometimes takes the joy out of the big picture kind of running…gotta learn to control that too…not competitive with others since i'm so slow… :)

  32. Julie D. says

    Not sure I really get the competitive nature in racing against each other. The fun in racing for me, is competing against myself. Maybe if I was faster, I would want to compete against other elite athletes?

  33. Kate says

    My biggest competition is also myself. I am always trying to beat my previous times and improve. It is also fun to run behind someone for miles and finally beat them near the finish line (…especially if it's a man)

  34. Barbie says

    When I was younger it was all about beating that one person but now as I have gotten older and wiser, I only ever race against me and my times.

  35. Silly Girl Running says

    I'm competitive and I'm the first to admit that, but with years adding to my age it's no longer about beating others. It's about beating myself. Sure, it's a great feeling to place high in your AG, but when that's all that counts…that takes the fun out of running… My 2 cents.

  36. Matty O says

    AGREED. I will say I am a mental case that has to beat my own times. I do however use people as targets to get me to push faster, but I do not EVER say I am upset because I got a PR and did not be so and so hahaha.

    Good post :)

  37. Fran says

    Here are my thoughts about it:

    I run for myself, for my health but also for the feeling of accomplishment after a longer distance or after running in bad weather.

    I run races because I like to run in a different area than around my hometown. When I do a distance for the first time I don't care about the time, finishing is what counts. But do I do that distance again I sure want to beat my own PR on that distance.

    And yes I feel happy when I run behind someone for a while and I pass that person but that's not my main goal. I don't know the other runners in a race so I could never be disappointed afterwards if I didn't pass them.

    I think there's nothing wrong about being competitive, some are more than others. But I think it's a problem is you are so competitive that it takes away the joy of running for a person.

  38. Dash says

    I did have a post similar to this, but more about not being competitive in workouts! I'm completely with you on the competing against yourself, and I think it's okay to "compete" against people in races that you know you are similar to, because sometimes they can push you a little more than you would push yourself… As always, great post! 😉

  39. Joanne says

    So well stated. Competitiveness can be a positive driving force or a negative one. I think the fun of racing is when the experience is a positive, competitive experience where in the end, you can be happy for whoever came out in front.

  40. Jill says

    As long as I beat Kovas and Chris K, I'm fine. :)

    I really don't think there's anything wrong with trying to beat someone, especially if that someone and you have pretty similar race times; I think it makes you push a little harder and your want a little stronger. I used to enter all these shorter 5 and 10K races when I lived in Alabama and this chick and I were always there, and it was always a toss-up who would cross first. You can't help but not get competitive against someone like that…and I don't think there's anything wrong…it pushed me to a whole new level of racing. I loved it!

  41. skierz says

    It is an accomplishment to beat others, but it should not be your motivator to compete in your sport! set yourself up for success in taking care of what you can control, your training, your nutrition, your attitude!! if you manage those elements you should be able to meet whatever goal you want to. setting your expectations based on what someone else is doing or not doing is setting yourself up for failure, and sooner or later you will stop your sport because of it!

  42. Amanda@runninghood says

    well written and great food for thought. This is part of what made competing in college and highschool so difficult for me. I always felt so sick to my stomach about what my coach expected me to do and the girls on the team were so competitive with each other. I finally starting loving racing and running more when it was just for me…this is when all the pieces truly came together and I began to see myself do better.

  43. lindsay says

    agreed – it's fun to be a little competitive with others, but i am mostly just competitive with myself. ie – i'd rather PR but miss out on an age group award than win my age group (small field) and run a bad time or something.

  44. Christina says

    Competition is healthy and helps us strive to be better. But I agree, if its only about beating someone or only getting a PR, then it's not healthy and becomes self-defeating.