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The good thing about competing against yourself, is that you always win

10 February 2014

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When we were little, my dad was the King of Competitiveness. Racing us up the street, he would hang back until just before the kerb and then pull a Mo Farah and beat us to the pavement at the last minute. When playing cards, he always used his superior skill to trounce our measly efforts and, when he couldn’t, he cheated. He hated games of chance. “There’s no skill involved!”, he would moan, as our tiny hands won at snap.

I say all this with affection. Never has there been a lovelier man, but the thing that he loves most of all is to win. He used to have a duffel bag full of trophies which we occasionally emptied onto the bed, practising our Oscar acceptance speeches with the one for ‘G Flight Darts Champion, 1979′. The man had a trophy for every sport: football, cross-country, boxing, ice hockey (ice hockey!), squash, cricket. There was nothing he couldn’t win at.

I have inherited this competitiveness gene. My daughter is still too little for me to test it in full – about the same age as me in the photo – but I suspect my turn to cheat at Hungry Hippos may not be far off.

On the whole, I’m grateful. You say competitiveness; I say caring. For what is the point of playing a game of cards if you don’t care who wins? Non-competitive people make very dull playing companions. They forget who is dealing. “Who is next?”, they ask time and again, “what’s trumps?”, “oh, does that mean I win?”. ARgh.

Sometimes, though, I will admit that it is not a blessing. The desire to beat your personal best running times can be a great motivator, but it cannot be switched off. In Spring 2012 I ran a marathon in 3 hours 28 minutes. In Spring 2013 I had a baby. In Spring 2014 I’m running  another marathon, and I have just had to accept that I should not attempt to better my best.

A small voice inside, even now, is still saying “really? Why not??!!”, but it must be ignored. On Saturday I ran what my training plan called a “half marathon race” and what in reality was a steady 13.1 miles. I completed it in 1h 43 minutes. Not bad, if you ignore the fact that it nearly killed me. The thought of doing that, at that speed, twice, is unimaginable. I could try it, but I would surely fail. If I tried to run the Milton Keynes marathon in 8 minute miles I could possibly manage 15, maybe 20 miles,  before blowing up like a pulverised balloon at my daughter’s first birthday party. For the first time, my desire not to do this is stronger than my desire to win.

So, my new goal: finish in 3 hours 45 minutes and ENJOY THE RACE. Still a bit competitive, obviously. I’m not giving up who I am, after all.

Weekly stats:

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 6 miles with 200m bursts
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: 7 miles with hill reps
Friday: 4.5 miles easy
Saturday: 13.1 miles “race”
Sunday: 4 miles recovery run

Total: 34.5 miles

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  1. Daily News, Mon, Feb 10

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