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A dose of healthy competition

Posted Sep 27 2010 12:00am
Yesterday Adam and I ran the Toronto 1/2 marathon - my first crack at it, his second. Overall, it was a great experience. I can almost say I had fun running longer than I ever have in my life. We've been training for months, and yesterday felt a lot like a training run, except with A LOT more people and fanfare. And today feels just like the day after a long run, except ten times worse (hello, legs...we've been working together for nearly 38 years, so what's the problem?)

Leading up to the race a number of people asked if I had a time goal, or if I "just wanted to finish." I suppose that's a fair question, as simply finishing 21.1 km in one piece is definitely an accomplishment. But I am competitive. Like, push-you-to-the-ground-without-a-second-thought-to-win-musical-chairs, or angry-that-I-have-to-fake-lose-to-a-kid kind of competitive. I blame my early years as a competitive gymnast for my fierce desire to win, but the truth is I'm probably hard-wired that way. So for me, simply "finishing" the 1/2 wouldn't have been good enough. In fact, not finishing, after 5 months of training, 3 black toenails, and hours of running in crazy heat, was not even an option. So I had a time goal, based on my training runs and what I thought I could do race day. And I *almost* made it, finishing 5 minutes past my goal. Not bad. Of course, now I have to run another one and this time I want to knock 15 minutes off my race time. That's just the way I, run.

Now Adam is exactly the same, although I think he'd happily let a kid "beat" him at a friendly game of musical chairs. So as far as what we'll pass on to the kidlet? I suppose time will tell if she's hard-wired like we are, but there's no doubt we'll instill a healthy respect for competition in her.

You see, Adam and I believe that kids shouldn't just get medals for showing up. We both grew up at a time when you were either on the winning team, or the losing one. Period. These days it seems that every kid is a winner...which on the surface seems like a good thing, right? After all, imagine the boost to self-esteem kids get when they always "win." But when do they learn that life isn't always that easy? That winning at something is awesome, but losing means you get to learn some valuable lessons to carry over for the next time. Life is hard, and challenging, and certainly as adults no one is handing out medals just for showing up. So how can our kids build the confidence they need to handle both winning AND losing, gracefully and graciously?

I'm not suggesting that toddler soccer matches start handing out ribbons to only half the kids, but rather that at some point in the process, kids need to know what it feels like to lose. That they aren't "entitled" to win because they laced their sneakers and ran on the field.

So where do you sit on the winning/losing, and competition for kids/young adults thing? Feel free to disagree with me, although if you do I'd like to challenge you to a thumb wrestling match where the winner gets to be "right" ; )
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