Well actually, no I wouldn’t…but did I get your attention?
Competition. There’s a stigma around it that honestly has some truth to it. Being overly competitive can be a horrible thing. It can take the fun out of things and cause a passion toward something to change from something optimistic to something destructive. However, regular good old fashioned competition is pretty healthy and actually is how a lot of people have made their careers. What’s the defining difference? Can you really assign a right way and a wrong way to be competitive? In my opinion, it’s all about the vibe you create.
I personally don’t enjoy competition in the heat of things. I don’t like feeling like I’m pitting myself up against someone else, I don’t like nudging my way in front of people and I don’t like feeling like the way I would race something could change depending on who else was there with me. However, I have a bit of an inactive competitive nature that comes into play after it’s all said and done. If I finish a race and see that I placed well, that makes me extremely giddy. If I run a trail and see that I ended up getting a Strava trophy from it; that also fills me with inexplicable joy. I rarely think about it while I’m actually running but if I come back and see that I’ve improved significantly on a loop I do often; that too gives me the warm fuzzies. I rather prefer this type of “post run” competitiveness but I definitely don’t think it’s the way everyone else should act and feel about it. Otherwise, we probably wouldn’t have many sporting events out there to watch, at least not very exciting ones. However, the vibe I feel I let off from my specific relationship to competition is a positive one. I don’t think anyone is left feeling like I’m trying to “beat them to the finish” after we go for a run together, or that I’m specifically competing with them for meaningless Strava segments. I think everyone genuinely knows that I would love to see them kick my ass at a race that we’re both running (and this has happened quite a lot).
I’ve been privy to being in some places that have elite athletes at them. That’s not a brag, Boulder just happens to contain 75% of our fasties in the trail running world. Among those times where I’ve been around these specific people (those whose job it is to compete against one another), I have experienced both really positive vibes and particularly negative ones. There are those that seem to truly love the nature of running, putting the work in and yes, desiring deeply to win or podium at a race but you can tell that it’s because their heart is just really in the sport. They live and breathe running and just want to see the fruits of their efforts paid out in full. Then there are those that just ooze arrogance. They’ve rightly made a name for themselves through hard work and dedication, but you can tell that they’ve come to expect it. They’ve come to expect the recognition and they definitely feel they are superior to others around them because they’ve won a few races. These are the ones that give that negative vibe to competition; the stigma. They may even pretend that they don’t care about it but everyone else can tell that they do. I’ve been around people like this, elite and amateur alike, and they have always made me feel for lack of a better word, icky.
This is the kind of competition that I can’t understand and I don’t favor. I don’t like when you can feel as if a person is only rooting for themselves and no one else. Where is the fun in that? Yes, I delight in watching athletes duke it out on the course and nothing is more exciting than seeing athletes cross a finish line within seconds of each other when they both worked their tails off attempting to get there first. I’ve been on the edge of my seat refreshing Twitter feeds to see races just like this unfold. But it would take so much of that pleasure out of it for me if I knew that either of those runners were so focused on winning that they didn’t support their fellow athletes and wanted to see everyone else around them fail. Why? Because that isn’t what the aura of trail running is. There are only a few of these people out there tainting the scene, but it’s enough to leave a gross taste in your mouth when you hear about it or witness it firsthand.
The question is, how can we change seeing this in our community? I am not quite sure that we can, at least not entirely. We can continue to spread our own positive vibes with sport and competition and try our best to not give attention to the ones that are out there trying to moldy the cheese.