Your Idea Of A “Competitor” Is Wrong. Here’s Why.

What Is A Competitor?

Runners often view competitors in races as combatants.

Races are a “me vs. them” contest where one person will win and the rest will lose.  Some runners spend a lot of time before races stressing out about their competitors and worrying about whether they can “beat them.”

If you really want to run to the best of your ability, this is the wrong way to view competitors.

The Real Meaning of “Competitor”

Far from the words “combatant” or “enemy,” the word competitor comes from the Latin word competere which means “to strive together.”

Competitors in races are not people to fear or despise, but rather people who give you the opportunity to strive to achieve your goals and attain great sense of satisfaction after winning the race or running your best time.

I know that I mentioned Pete Carroll’s book Win Forever in my prior post, but it has a great chapter on Carroll’s thoughts on what competition truly means.

The tougher my opponents, the more they present me with an opportunity to live up to my full potential and play my best…At the end of the day, that opponent is the person who makes you into the best competitor you can be.

Viewing your opponent as your friend instead of enemy goes against the rule of thumb for many athletes and coaches.  The common belief is that athletes must learn to look at competitors with contempt in order to “psych” themselves up for an all out effort.

However, spending energy and time obsessing over whether you can finish ahead of other racers is a complete waste of time and energy that will negatively affect performance.

Focus Inward On What Your Can Control

When I was a high school and college runner I always looked at the heat sheets that listed my competitors in a race with a sense of fear and nervousness. I would read off the names and how I would be able to beat the guys who had better times with me.

What a waste of time.

The energy that I put into obsessing and worrying about other runners was worthless because I had no control over what other runners did in the race.  They might run the race of their lives or run well below their potential, but all my worrying and anxious energy had no influence either way.

The hard work I put into analyzing other runners’ best times did not help me focus inward before the race on staying relaxed and running with confidence.  Staying relaxed and confident are things that actually could have a positive affect on my performance.

Instead having the goal of “beating” other runners, my goals should have been “to stay relaxed and refuse to give into negative thoughts.” By achieving the latter goal, I would have given myself the best chance of actually winning the race. Win Forever addresses this concept

We want to center our focus on what we can control, which is us. We have no control over what our opponents do; we can only control what we do. We want to maximize our potential, and to do that we must focus our energy and efforts on ourselves.

I think this view of competitors is really liberating.  How nice is it to ignore things that you can’t control and only have the obligation to focus on things that you can actually control?

So the next time you feel yourself focusing on your competitors in a race, make a point to view them as merely opportunities to succeed, and turn your attention inward to ensure that you give yourself the best chance to run your best.

Do you ever get nervous about running against certain competitors?

Photo courtesy of sophie http://goo.gl/G3tl9U / CC  BY


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