During a long week of sponsor and family obligations in the ever-buzzing New York City, I found myself running in Central Park taking in the electricity of the city. In this week of NYC hustle, the run was the only me-time I’d get. I wondered how mad my coach would be hearing I ran 12 miles instead of the 10 he prescribed. I was in my own little bubble. My mind was elsewhere. I passed fellow joggers and waved as I strode by.
Seemingly out of nowhere, one of the men I passed moments earlier passed me back. He brushed my shoulder as he flew by. For a second, I was paralyzed in his wake. Then I realized he wanted to race (or at least didn’t want to get passed by little ol’ me).
I matched his pace. He cranked it up and I made sure to sync our strides. Each time he picked up the pace, I made sure to be right there with him to flash a taunting smile. I could see he was hurting. I was too. But there was no way I was going to show it.
Suddenly, I was in a silly and spontaneous race through Central Park. It didn’t matter who won, really. The point was obvious. We were both having fun.
Before we crested the top of a long hill, he buckled, saying “okay, you win.” I keeled over too, glad he broke before I did but elated to share that hard-fought mile with him. I smiled. We high-fived, exchanged a “good job” and went our separate ways. While I finished my run, I replayed the impromptu race in my mind and was grateful for that brief but powerful interaction. Jubilant and triumphant, I thought, “so, I do really love racing.”
With all of the pressure and hype around racing, sometimes it’s hard to remember whether I genuinely love toeing the line. I can’t tell sometimes if I like running or if I’m drawn to the sport’s competition.
Throughout my running career, the answer has always been yes, I do love racing. But in the midst of a training cycle destined to end with the bang of starting gun, only to start back up at the finish line, I wonder if racing has just become a habit that is so ingrained in my lifestyle that I’d be lost without it.
I suspect part of that is true. Thanks to a pair of competitive parents, I’ve raced or otherwise competed since I could use the potty by myself. I can’t imagine a life without pushing myself against my peers. But my love for racing can be clouded by how it’s tied into every nook and cranny of my life. It’s easy to forget that racing is actually fun
Competition has been around since the T-Rex ruled the world. Without competition, there would be no natural selection. There would be no evolution. Competition doesn’t just create winners and success stories or turn dinosaurs into chickens. It builds strong personalities, resilience and determination. It fosters humor and humility. It builds high-performing entrepreneurs, executives, business leaders and unworldly athletes. It makes us strong.
If I toe the line and expect to win a race, I won’t perform my best. If I wasn’t challenged to be an athlete, I don’t think my life would be as fulfilling. I love to race as much as I love to run and sometimes, it takes a little friendly competition in the park to remember that. So thank you to the man who offered a challenge in the middle of my daily jog. You made me excited to race again.