Posted by: rundadrun | February 10, 2010

Winning isn’t everything…REALLY!

Rundad when he was just RunRob... and had hair. 🙂

There was a time in my life when I was not willing to accept anything but winning when it came to running. Luckily, at that time I was young, fast and pretty  bulletproof.  I was usually able to finish pretty close to the front, or win most of the races I ran.  Fast forward to the restart of my running career (20 + years later), and I was suddenly faced with the prospect of NOT winning any race I ran, and struggling just to finish at times.  This took a lot of  rethinking on my part.  It is one thing to say to yourself, “I am running this race for the enjoyment of running and I will not be disappointed with a less than winning performance”.  It is another thing entirely to live that.  I will be the first to admit, I am way too competitive with almost everything I do.  Please don’t read this as “I am great at everything I do athletically”, because the opposite is closer to true…just ask anyone who has seen me run. 🙂  But, I have a deep down, probably genetic, need to win. This has been a major obstacle for my re-entry to the running world.  Imagine my surprise when I did not finish first in my first race back after that 20+ hiatus.  In fact, I didn’t finish in the top 10 or the top half for that matter! It was a tough, yet enlightening experience.  I had to re-think this competitive thing.

One thing that helped a lot was reading some of the writings of John “The Penguin” Bingham. He is famous for his attitude of “running is winning”. One of my favorite books of his is “The Courage to Start”.  In it he speaks of how he changed his life with running.   I shared a lot in common with this past-middle-ager who came to running late in life after a less than healthy past.  He had struggled with his weight and tobacco just as I had. Yet he was a runner!  This didn’t fit with my old way of thinking, but it sure meshed with my present situation.  When I got to thinking about it, I realized that although I won a lot of races, had a lot of medals and some great memories of my athletic past, I am having a LOT more fun with my running now!  Now I run for the joy of getting out. Yes, I still push myself too hard occasionally, and I pay the price.  And I haven’t given up all of my competitiveness.  I love to do well as much or more than the next person, but it just isn’t all-consuming any more.

So, instead of driving myself to the point of injury to beat a ghost from 25 years ago, or yesterday’s tempo run, I set realistic goals and enjoy doing something to make me healthier and happier.  And again, I am loving it more than ever!  And occasionally I still cherry-pick a slower 5K and go out there and get a 2nd or 3rd in my age group.  I try to pick the races that fall right after major holidays so everyone is sick from overeating and excess of other kinds. 🙂  But the medals and records no longer have the pull for me that they once did…which is good, cause I can’t reach them anyway.

So, if you are just starting out in running, or you are a seasoned racer, do yourself a favor and don’t chase your old self around in circles. In most cases, we can’t compete against our old self.  Enjoy the here and now by getting out there and doing something about your NOW.

Happy running,




  1. Wow! I really relate to this! Not with running, but with the whole sports/competitive Used-to-be-top-at-everything-but-now-am-at-the-bottom part.

    • It took me a while to not lose my mind every time I got passed at a race. I am okay with it now, but I don’t look forward to it.

  2. well said. love your attitude/outlook. keep it up and thanks for visiting my blog@

  3. I love your blog! I’m definitely inspired by your love of running! Looking forward to following along.

    • Thank you very much! I am glad that my enthusiasm is catchy. 🙂 I appreciate the readership.
      Happy running,

  4. Thanks for the comment on my post! I love the premise of your blog. I read in a magazine yesterday that people have a 97% higher pain tolerance when they are running together; keep it up!

    • Thanks for the reply. I would love to know what magazine that was. It is an interesting piece of info. Thanks again.

  5. I’m glad you’re having fun with running! I’ve been burnt out before and there’s nothing better than those first few runs when you realize you’re having a blast.

  6. I don’t buy it. It’s not binary, i.e., race to win or be a penguin. A major barrier those of us with a long background in the sport is accepting the reality, as I like to say, of being whooped soundly by a young guy in, say, a 10K running at what was your easy long-run pace 20 years ago.

    Once you cross that barrier, the objective becomes running as fast as you’re capable of running. I know for late starters, people who took it up in their 30s or 40s, they don’t have to address the ghosts of their former selves. But all runners who take this sport seriously aim to do their best at it, and most of them haven’t had the experience of actually winning anything. You see them blogging away, talking about tempo paces and interval workouts, long-runs and drills.

    As I age, more and more youngsters are beating me. I can see the lead vehicle and the pack in which I would be disappear into the distance. But I still love working hard at it and putting a number on and sucking wind as I try to pick off a few people late in the race, perhaps not to break into the top 10 but to make the top 100. It’s a different perspective, but it’s our sport. Don’t sell yourself short.

    Thanks for coming my way. I’ll keep an eye to see how you’re doing.

    • Thanks for the comment. Hopefully I didn’t come across as not ever wanting to improve myself. I still want to race to my full potential and I do my speed work and tempo runs and everything else I can to be the best me I can be. But I have had to realize that going out every day with the intent to beat yesterday’s time, regardless of the type of run I am doing is foolhardy. I have also begun to realize that there is nothing wrong with occasionally leaving the watch home and running for the enjoyment of it.

      I know that I still have some PR’s out there, but I don’t have to run them everyday. I guess part of my maturing as a runner has been to realize that there are times to push and times to rest, and I am not the sub 5minute miler that I was in high school. But getting that occasional PR or age group award is a nice thing too. I also know that a great many of the people that I am working with to improve their health are just really happy to be upright at the finish line, and I applaud them for that.

      Hope that makes it more clear.
      Happy running,

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