Keeping Competition Results in Perspective

A version of this post was previously posted in The Running World According to Dean.

It’s important to be passionate about what you do. Wanting and striving to be the best we can be; breaking personal records – winning championships – beating opponents – winning medals – gathering t-shirts. But keeping race performances in perspective aids in moderating dramatic swings in our moods, reactions post-competition and ability to rebound from poor performances. First, allow me to digress briefly.

I was helping comb through belongings of an elderly couple who had recently been moved to an assisted living facility. Her last visit to the house was emotional as you can imagine. His dementia had progressed long beyond caring about these things. Here was my ah-ha moment: It is sad when you realize everything you have is reduced to something to donate, give-away or throw away and that only a few things remain of value to those who will be left behind.

I found myself envisioning me in their place. And the realization that trophies, medals, shirts, running logs and race shirt quilts have meaning to me alone. There is little value to anyone else in my life after I move on. For now a good race becomes a fond memory and perhaps motivating story to tell my family. A bad race is either a blip in time or a preposterous tale (in my case these stories become more apocryphal each time I retell it). So for now, my stuff provides me a comfort, a source of satisfaction and entertainment.

But the day will come when no one will remember a race or place I had. The only thing left, as if part of a trivia question, somewhere online my name will show up in race results. And no one will know the story behind the name and numbers.

Now back to keeping competitions and results in perspective. In the end a competition is just a competition. Be passionate. Go for it with all the gusto you can. But remember that the result does not define you. It is just one more event in your life. Keep it in perspective.

  • Is it really worth getting so worked up before a competition you can barely function?
  • Is your stress and emotional reactions really worth making everyone around you on edge because of your race preparation and mindset?
  • Is it really worth it that you dwell on a bad day, poorly marked course, poor officiating or that someone beat you?

On the other hand:

  • How do you go out and give your very best for today?
  • How would you like to be remembered from this competition?
  • What story will you get to retell about today’s competition?
  • In what fond ways could you look back on this competition?
  • How would you like to view your weeks or months of preparation and training for that competition?

For awhile you’ll have memories, stories and remnants of days gone by. But, some day no one will care what place, time, score or distance you had; and you won’t remember. I don’t say this to be a “downer”. In fact the opposite. I say this with sincerity in hopes that perhaps, just perhaps, it helps one person cope better with the ups and downs of their training and competition performances.

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