Competitive Edge, Help or Hindrance?

Competitive Edge, Help or Hindrance?

A bit of a change this time from my usual blog subject, as something happened at my running group that got me thinking and I wanted to see what other people thought.

We have quite a varied group of runners at the group I coach with, The Running Inn. I tend to run with new people or people that may be on their own, or if someone wants to push that little bit harder, I will be there pace maker (obviously this does not apply to those who can run much quicker than me!) 

Last week we were doing a split session of 3 x 1000m then 5 x 200m. I ran the 3 x 1000m with a new lady. But the 200s I ran with somebody who was struggling a bit, I'll call them Bob for the purpose of this story. Bob wanted me to keep a consistent pace as he knew he would give up if he tried on his own. 

We were on the 4th rep, and as we were running, another member of the group came past us. I know that Bob usually liked to make sure this person does not pass him, and would use that person as a motivation. So I knew that when this person came sailing past it was going to either spur him on to run quicker (and possibly push to hard) or really demotivate him.

Unfortunately it was the later. But what Bob didn't realise is the person that came past, had not run the other 200m reps. When we got to the end Bob said, "I wish I had more of a competitive edge! When they came past me I should have picked up my pace and not let them past." He was very down with himself. I said to him, "That was the first and only rep they did, you had done four fast, consistent reps before that. I knew you would think that as they came past, but the variables were different.

"Although a competitive edge is good, when you don't know what the other person is doing or has done, you can't measure yourself against that. Also, had you pushed hard on the 4th, you may not have been able to complete the final rep at the standard you did."

Bob felt better after we had discussed it, and said that sometimes you just have to forget everyone else around you and just run for yourself. 

But this got me thinking about the 'competitive edge' for those of us that are not elite athletes. Does it help us? When you are elite, you spend your time watching and researching your competitors. You know when they have been out injured, or have had a good season, but what about the rest of us? We don't know if that guy in front that we are determined to beat or catch is using the race as a training run and not really putting much effort in, or if he is been taking the first half easy and is about to shoot off for a negative split!

Trying to stay with people or catch them could end up with us burning out or getting injured. Or is it ok when your out training and you see another runner and your determined to catch them. You may have just done 15 miles and they may be on their 3rd, but you pick up the pace, because you won't let them get away. Does that help with training? Or should we try to stay in our zone and ignore other runners?

Does the competitive edge for us mere mortals, mean we could be setting unachievable goals? 

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Posted

Hi Im a new runner-started about 4/5 weeks ago am now running 4 miles (with walking) with a group of friends/running club who have all been running longer than me-was wondering when does it get easier-I manage but its not getting any easier or is that how it is/just me? I am getting better but its still a struggle x

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Posted

thanks gavtris, totally agree with what you say about being happy with your own effort. . . you need to be able to be comfortable and happy with what you do, whether its a pb or not.

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Posted

I used to be a reasonably good 400mH runner and I struggled quite badly when I found in my mid 20s and couldn't turn in the same performances as I used to. It was very hard for me to accept that I was might never be as good at that event as I was at 21, but in reality the ageing process, a full time job and a serious relationship all meant that sooner or later I had to recognise that my peak might have passed unless I was prepared to re-prioritise sprinting.

In the event, I also moved to a different part of the country and lost my squad too which helped me to disengage and direct my energies into an event where I could accommodate the training routine in order to remain competitive.

For me, being competitive is extremely important; even if that competition is only with myself, that's ok. Beating somebody else is not about changing their mental state and lauding it over the "loser", it's about improving your own by being happy with your own effort.

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Posted

Hiya,

I think you choose your battles! Be it against yourself or the guy catching you in the diving suit, we can all chase something even if it's your breath.

Matt

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Posted

Hiya,

I think you choose your battles! Be it against yourself or the guy catching you in the diving suit, we can all chase something even if it's your breath.

Matt

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Posted

Thanks for all the comments. Is great to get other runners perspective. I stuggle with the fact that, due to injuries(i assume) I have been geting slower for a year or so. I see and run with people who I was level with or quicker than, and now they leave me standing. I try to be supportive and pleased for their improvement, but it does make me keep looking back at where I used to be and where I am now. I try to tell myself, Im just pleased to be out running, which sometimes works, but that 'competitive edge' I have against my former running self, seems to have a negative impact.

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Posted

I'm a new member to the site and having reached 40+ look differently on the subject in comparison to how I would have done 10 years ago when I took part in 10k runs. I don't mind admitting that I have my competitive edge, but with age comes experience. In addition to enjoying a sociable run I manage a kids football team. We have been successful in the past and I hope we can continue this into the future, but as a manager you observe a great deal and soon realise that it's not the winning but the taking part that matters to most of the kids who play.

I don't argue that we need to improve ... But not everyone out there is destined to earn their fortune as a premiership player!

It's good that we aspire to be like our idols and that we strive to better ourselves. Competition is healthy but taking part is more important. There will always be somebody out there faster or fitter than ourselves. For me it's great to set personal goals and achieve PB's. Why worry about what we can't control? If the guy/girl infront is quicker than me I'll try and hang on to their coat tails but if they get away there's always tomorrow!

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Posted

The thing to remember/remind yourself is you are where you are and everybody else is where they are.

Some will be round about where you are but many will not i.e. faster or slower. If one of your goals is to get faster (and catch the person(s)) round about you then remember they may get faster as well. However, their/your age is a factor,as is their/your previous running history but your motivation to progress can be the factor that makes the difference. But motivation doesn`t mean overtraining. It means enough to improve judged by how your body feels and times in races.

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Posted

Great read and food for thought.  Like Twinkletoes I'm a real plodder and have a constant battle in my head to convince myself I'm doing great FOR ME as those around me fly on! I really will try to remember that we are rarely all on the same page, even if we're all trying to read the same book ;-)

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Posted

Thought provoking! As a slow slogger I really have to concentrate on MY goals and not get fed up that others are faster/fitter etc than me. I go to a great supportive Jogscotland Group and the great thing is we all come from different backgrounds, time constraints, injury/health issues and actually know when each other is doing well. Hopefully we also accept newbies in the same light, we've all been there. Today we were doing 50m, 100m, 150m and 200m "fast bursts" and I was last in all of them - but for me I did good! If the group was different, I wouldn't feel the same, and when out on my own and passed by "real" runners, I can get a bit despondent!

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