I took the opportunity recently to help at the elementary cross country meet hosted at my school for a number of reasons. Not only did it demonstrate my passion for the program (something I wanted my coach to see), it kept me from doing homework and I got free food.
I’m a college student, alright - we’ll do close to anything to get out of homework and get free food.
I ended up learning a lot that afternoon. Good and bad.
I learned how fast some eight year olds can be (consequently how fast I need to become before I’m passed by toddlers), how competitive adults can be, very unfortunately, and how official people will treat me if I am wearing a neon orange safety vest. Back to the neon thing, I’m telling you, it’s a runner thing.
I learned something particularly special though when I overheard a conversation between two of the young runners as they passed my checkpoint.
My job was to point them in such a way to remind them to follow the flags.
Their job? The young boy knew as he told his competitor: “Remember, we’re just having fun.”
Completely out of breath, it was the cutest thing. Cuter than German Shepherd puppies and YouTube videos of snoring mice and let’s be real - rare things are cuter than that.
My main thought after admiring such an adorable moment was that I wished I raced against girls who had that same attitude.
Nope. The girls I race against are a pretty combination between “Can you smell what The Rock is cooking?” and "You're making me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
I’ve attended and participated athletically in both public and private schools and now I attend a university that competes against both.
A positive aspect of changing schools was being exposed to multitudes of athletic sportsman ship and attitudes.
A negative aspect of changing schools was being exposed to multitudes of athletic sportsman ship and attitudes.
I’ve competed against students whose only concern was beating me. Sometimes that meant quietly with a snobby stare down before racing and other times it included bold trash talking with all intention of later scraping shoulders at the chance to merge in the race.
From all this, I’ve noticed, especially lately as I continue to be exposed to the situations of collegiate races, how my level of sportsmanship affects me competitively.
I’ve had coaches who have taught me to enjoy racing. I am extremely grateful for this. However, my soft spoken personality hinders my mental pressure when in a situation that demands exerting more effort.
I easily give in, giving up for a number of reasons.
I can recall many of times when I didn’t give more effort when I could have. Maybe I really liked the person I was racing against, and I was overcome by my personal opinion on how much I didn’t want to make them feel that someone was better than them. Maybe I knew they had just overcome an injury and was overcome by pity. Maybe somewhere between getting warmed up and imagining what would happen if I actually passed out as my breath quivered through adrenaline loaded pain, I convinced myself my competitors deserved to win the race more than I did.
This is all pretty ridiculous.
Any runner, including myself, would take it as a complete insult to realize their competitors aren’t trying their absolute hardest.
Still, I think there is a very obvious correlation between those with the sort of will to improve constantly in order to advance themselves and those who win most often. They are often the same athlete.
Of course, with every observation, there are exceptions in professional and nonprofessional sports.
And maybe the concept is taken out of context but since it was first used in the content of baseball and not dating, I think it’s okay for me to use it toward the realm of running.
Now, is when we ask ourselves the question. In theory, do nice guys actually finish last? Absolutely.