When I was in 4th grade, my mom signed us kids up for the community track and field league. I ran short distances and back then they were measured in yards: 50 yard dash, 100 yard dash and, my favorite, the 220 yard.
It wasn’t much fun because of Landy Lober. No matter what race we ran in, she came in first and I came in second. She was always running the 220 in 31.xx seconds and I was half a second slower. I knew every stitch of the back of her jersey because I was ALWAYS behind her burning a hole through it with my eyes. Yes, I would get upset. Sometimes I’d leave in the middle of track practice. Make excuses to not go to practice the next time. I would fake an injury so that my ego didn’t get crushed AGAIN. Sometimes I would even tell Landy that I ran faster than I did (at a practice she wasn’t at), just so I could FEEL a win even though it was empty and was no point. I was in 4th grade. A kid. I’m sure she knew. People always know who THOSE people are.
One day for a meet, Landy wasn’t there. It was the 220 and I lined up on the line. The starter called out On Your Mark, Get Set, and then I started to go. I false started. So I pulled up and just as I hopped backward a foot to the line, he fired. I looked at him and said “but” (but in my eyes was the, “you are SUPPOSED TO call us back”….he didn’t). He yelled “you’d better go!”. So I took off, clearly behind the pack and on a short run like this, that second or so that I hesitated is pretty much a nail in the coffin.
I was running and rounded the first corner. By then I had caught up to the last of the pack. Long strides Judy, just like coach said. Breathe. Stay in my toes. Lean forward.
I rounded the second corner and I was mid-way through the pack. The people in the stands were screaming as they always do. As we were getting to the last 10-15 yards, I was pulling up beside the leader. We crossed the line together.
I don’t remember if I won that race or not. I don’t think I did. But what stuck with me was the timekeeper called out 30.xx seconds. I don’t remember what came after that point, because I was like what???? 30? Surely that was a mistake. But, no. It was 30 and something seconds. A 1+ second PR! WITH a false start, no less! So that told my young 4th grade mind, that I could have gone even faster!
You see, what I realized was that up until THAT day….I was ALWAYS running Landy’s race. Her race. Not mine. Focused on her. Not me.
So, for the next season, I focused on running MY race. Thinking throughout the race rather than focusing on the jerseys in front of me. I’d think about form, breathing, etc. My times improved. And at the end of the next season, my last season…I finally beat Landy Lober in the 100 yard dash. It took a LONG time to get there, but I did. Never mind that she said afterwards that she twisted her ankle. Maybe she did, or maybe in her 5th grade mind she was protecting her ego too. I’ll never know.
Fast forward 35 years. Enter CrossFit. I try to carry forward my Landy Lober lesson. I try to “run my own race.” Is my form safe? My back tight? My arms locked out? Am I relaxed? Breathe deep. I need an extra breath. Break these into sets next round. Pace, pace, pace. Dang, no rep. Do it again. Do it again. Do it again. Ugh. These feel good. Go faster. Nope, mistake…go back to your pace. First round? Oh geez I’m not going to make it. Halfway? Okay, you can do this. Last round…give it all you got.
The bottom line is competition is healthy…until it’s not. If comparing your scores to others is positive and drives you to work harder, in a mentally healthy way, go for it. In 4th grade, I was letting it affect me and the person I was. I was feeling the negatives all the time. Which got me down. I learned then and practice it now that the only truly meaningful competition I have is with myself. From just showing up to crushing it, or somedays just finishing, a workout. There’s always going to be a Landy Lober, so why run her race?
Run your own race and be happy with EVERY result (good or bad).
- Embrace the small wins: You showed up. Win. Hit your depth. Win. You met your goal today. Win. You got three more box jumps than you did last time before step ups. Win. Heck, you actually jumped on the box. Win. You ran the whole way. Win. You didn’t whip your legs with the rope today…as much. Win. You did six toes-to-bar before heading to wall tappers. Win. You didn’t quit. Win.
- Always ask and look for what you need to do to be better, faster and more efficient and set more mini-goals or “wins” to work on those in the next workouts.
- And then, no matter what, be coachable and give it all you’ve got with as efficient and perfect a form as you can muster. Every. Single. Time. Regardless of the outcome, walk away knowing you gave all you had THAT DAY. Doing that gets me to my most important goal – better fitness. Better coordination, balance, agility, accuracy, speed, endurance, stamina, power, strength and flexibility. Better fitness is my ultimate goal. What’s yours?
Run your own race. Embrace and celebrate EVERY win from showing up to getting a new PR. You have already accomplished what many, many, MANY people don’t. You show up. You don’t walk out of practice, fake an injury, fudge a score, skimp your form, or quit. Other people do that (and we know who they are). Not you. Not me. And it makes us a better athlete and a better person with better fitness to be able to LIVE our lives.
Run your own race and celebrate it.