A common division in the world of running is the one between “competing or completing”. Many mid to back of the pack runners have not entered an event to test themselves against other runners. They are not going to get a podium place or perhaps even finish in the top half of the overall finishers. Taking in the scenery and enjoying the journey is of vastly more importance to these runners than any finishing time. “Me – I’m just hear to finish” are the exact words that I have said – more than once. This fact puts us solely in the “completing” bracket – right?
On the flip side of the same coin we have the racing snakes. He or she wants to go as hard as they can in order to be as quick as they can. The runner who wants to push themselves to their absolute limits….and beyond. They may even be looking for a top 3 finish, or to be first male/female finisher, to be in the top 10, top 50, top 100 finishers. The runners who have a specific finish time in mind that leaves a bitter taste if they don’t achieve that. These guys n gals fall entirely in to the “competing” camp – right?
Now those are pretty simplistic examples but are probably the most common or classic perceptions held, and hopefully you can see yourself in one of these two tribes, even if it is just a loose fit. But I believe that the lines between “competing” and “completing” are much more blurred than they may originally appear.
When any of us take our very first tentative steps on the journey that we all know as “running”, wherever that may eventually end up taking us, whatever our goals and aims may turn in to, and whatever our personal reasons for beginning to run in the first place are – then often our initial objective is one of “just to finish”. – “Completing” in it’s simplest form.
We often find, that as our fitness and abilities improves then we adjust our goals accordingly too. For many it is no longer satisfying enough “just to finish” any more. We now begin to set ourselves targets. We know that we are not going win or even finish high up near to the winner- but none the less we have a goal. It could be a new PB, to beat our previous time of last year, to get to the half way point by such and such a time, etc. In nearly 34 years of running I have never been anywhere near to the front finishers, but for many, many, of those years I still set myself racing goals such as I have described. How many times have you chatted with other runners and heard them say “The only person I am competing against is myself”? A lot I imagine. It is a natural evolution for any runner to want to improve and be better than their own “first time around the block” self that they once were. How we measure our running success is an entirely different subject – but now we are “competing” – even if it is just against ourselves.
Neither is it just the few elite runners that we may occasionally cross paths with that has the goal of winning. I read an article recently written by a runner – the following is lifted directly from that article – I will always remember standing on the start line of a cold, wet and wind-blasted 20 mile race a couple of years back when the man next to me a tiny, lightweight runner in a saggy vest and ancient running shorts – informed me that whilst he might finish in the final few of the race overall, he would make damn sure that he would beat “that bloke over there” – a similarly tiny, lightweight under-dressed chap who I was informed was the current holder of the over-70s winner’s medal from the year before. “Competing” yeah.
As for the back of packers again – the folk who enjoy the journey for the sake of the journey alone, and not “racing” any other runner or the clock (nowadays I proudly include myself in the numbers of those ranks). Are they competing?. I think so. As already stated it may not be against the other runners or against a specific time, but the challenge is against the course itself, against the terrain, against the topography. “Competing” yeah.
Anyone who runs: be that elite world class runner, respected club runner, first time eventer, back of the back plodder, chasing a PB’er, Ultra runner, Marathoner, 10k’er, etc, etc, etc, I believe to more or less a degree is competing in some shape or form – against the clock, against the leader, against the runners around them, against last years time, against the hills, against the trail, against themselves.
Explaining the “completers” is much more simple. I don’t believe that anyone ever enters any event not wanting to at least finish. Ergo we are all “completers”