I have been going to NRC (Nike Run Clubs) for almost 9 months and in those 9 months I have become faster, more confident a runner, seen some pretty epic London sights, made a whole heap of friends, and become surprisingly competitive. Maybe that’s the wrong was to put it: I have always been competitive just when competing with myself I am always first so it doesn’t really matter. When running in a group there is no competing with myself, there is only being first.
I know this isn’t the point of run clubs and I know I shouldn’t want to ‘beat’ anyone because we are not racing. We are running because we love running or because we want to lose weight or become fitter. We are not running to win. Yet when I started I was always last. Always. I wasn’t fast and tried very hard to not let it bother me. Most of the time it worked because I knew I would get faster and that I wouldn’t always be right at the end. Also accepting right from the very beginning that you will be at the very end makes being at the very end all that easier.
But when I started to get better I wasn’t at the end anymore and I liked that. But I didn’t want to be in the middle. Sometimes this is purely for safety reasons because I constantly worry I will trip over someone else’s feet or someone will trip over mine. My greatest fear is breaking a limb and not being able to run. The only way out of this predicament is to be at the very front or at the very back where there are no other runners around you. I didn’t want to be at the back so I decided to start pushing myself to be at the very front.
Don’t think for one minute that this meant I was the fastest runner. It meant I was the runner in that particular time group who was trying very hard to be at the front. Most of the time I failed then slowly over time I was at the front more and more. And that’s when the problems began. I liked being at the front but with running there is always, always someone faster and stronger. Always. When they over take me I don’t always handle it well.
Not that I mean I have a tantrum, but in my head I know I should be first. It’s this little voice telling me that if they are ahead of me then I should be running faster. I have become so competitive over this year that I am actually amazed at how my brain works. It all happened so stealthily and now there is no going back (do I even want to go back?). Before it never used to occur to me that I could be first so there was no point in being competitive – I will never win so I might as well stay at the back. Now I am better, not the best, but a lot better and recognising and knowing I have that potential is so powerful. I can run faster. I can run longer distances. And yes, I can run faster than them.
I am surprised by my competitiveness but not ashamed of it. It’s the same as being ambitious at work: necessary for me. What I need to accept is that being last in a run club means nothing because at least I am running and improving and seeing some pretty epic sights.