Looking for a surefire way to really get under the skin of your favorite runner? It’s easy. After she completes her next race, make sure the first question you ask is, “Did you win?”
Oh, I’m sure you mean well. What you really want to know if the race was a success or not. But what most people (particularly non-runners) fail to realize is that 99% of the participants in a local road race enter without any hope of winning. At least not “winning” in the sense of being the first one across the finish line, and probably not even having the fastest time in their respective age group.
So why on earth would you enter a race if you know you will … well … LOSE???
Because most runners I know don’t buy into the concrete definition of the terms win and lose. We don’t agree with the whole second-place-is-first-loser mentality. We don’t share the feeling that our personal sense of fulfillment can only be achieved in exchange for the failure of all others.
I love the thought expressed by John “The Penguin” Bingham in his book No Need for Speed. He says, “There is a difference between a win and a victory … You may never have a chance to win a race, but you will have ample opportunities to be victorious.”
As I toe the starting line of a race, or more accurately, a spot somewhere far behind the starting line with the rest of the not-so-speedy, I am surrounded by runners who desire to be victorious. Some are trying to achieve a certain finish time or average pace. Some are trying to soothe inner conflicts over age, weight, low self-esteem, or some other unseen adversary. Some are just trying to reach the finish line in one piece.
It is very exciting to be surrounded by such a spirit of unbridled expectation and anticipation. The atmosphere seems much more cooperative than competitive, as if we are all united in one common bond. It is electrifying!
That’s not to say that we’re not EVER competitive. One of the greatest victories in my first 10K was passing several runners during the last mile. (Including one, ahem, older gentleman who had been ahead of me the entire race and tried to pick up the pace so I couldn’t scoot around him.) But it wasn’t the fact that I beat those runners that made me proud. It was the realization that I had paced myself properly in the early miles and was able pick up speed in the later miles. It was my own satisfaction that my hard work and training was paying off.
I finished that 10K knowing that I’d left it all on the course, running the best race that I could on that particular route on that particular day. So don’t let the fact that I finished in 154th place fool you. Ask me again if I won, and I’m going to answer with a resounding YES!