I the running universe, it’s not uncommon to encounter runners that have zero interest in running races. They have no need to compete. The “training” runs fulfill whatever it is they need fulfilling, whether it be fitness, stress relief, the intrinsic joy of the physical movement, socialization… whatever.
For those that DO run races, training usually focuses on improvement when competing. They may still train for the reasons listed above, but there’s a competitive edge to their training routine. For some, the goal is to win the race. For most, the goal is self-improvement or other, more modest competitive goals.
This duality of the running world never really stuck me as odd. Some people are into racing; some are not. Different strokes.
This same duality plays out in most physical activities… and creates considerable debate. Specifically, those that DO compete usually have a difficult time understanding the motives of those that don’t compete.
When Shelly and I started getting involved in jiu jitsu training, we encountered the same duality. Some people competed. Some didn’t. For whatever reason, the “training for the sake of training” no-interest-in-competing stance struck me as strange. I had a much more difficult time accepting “sport” jiu jitsu than “competition” jiu jitsu.
Why is my perception of competition different? Is it the nature of the sport? In the combative sports, you’re pitted against one opponent. You either win or lose.
I used to wrestle back in high school. I was mediocre at best. My overall record was around 500 or so… I won about as often as I lost. I would usually beat the shitty kids and get my ass kicked by the studs. Regardless, there was always one winner and one loser. You don’t see too many wrestlers gleefully posting an “I participated in a wrestling tournament but didn’t win” picture on Facebook.
Running is different. There’s one winner and a whole slew of losers. For 99% of a typical field, losing is perfectly acceptable because we’re not competing against the eventual winner. I’ve probably run 40-50 races over the years and have never won. I’m 0-50. It’s a pretty piss-poor record, huh?
The point- it’s easier to understand the noncompetitors in running because there’s little hope of winning. Even the best of the best have a limited shelf life. Losing a race isn’t nearly as ego-damaging as losing a one-on-one sport.
Many of my readers have experience in sports other than running. I’m curious to hear other thoughts… how do you perceive the nature of competition between running and your other sports? How is it similar? Different?
Have fun with this one!