I have always been a fairly competitive person. Not quite a full cut throat - probably more like 75% at my worst. As most people will tell you, a competitive streak can be both a blessing and a curse. It has driven me to a number of wonderful accomplishments, but also to some devastating losses. When a fierce competitor, whose drive to win is matched only by perfectionism, doesn't achieve his or her goal (loses), things get pretty ugly.
Since college, my urge to win all has faded as I matured and became more aware that I cannot, in fact, be the best at everything I try my hand at. Maybe the reality is that I have just become jaded; or, as I like to think, I have just become a realist.
When it comes to running I am generally just happy to the best Kathryn I can be. I have absolutely no delusions of grandeur when it comes to racing and running. I know that I am not the fastest runner; that I will not likely win any race or even ever quality for Boston. As I've mentioned in a previous Reason to Run post, every run that I complete feels like a great accomplishment no matter how it goes. Maybe that's why I like running so much - I don't have to be the best to get that feeling that I used to get from being first chair flute or Valedictorian. I get it just from finishing.
Sometimes, however, that competitive streak comes roaring back and infiltrates my run. It happened this past Saturday. A terrible line of storms came through the mid-Atlantic region on Friday night, knocking out power to millions... including ours. Luckily, our in-laws still had power so after the storm blew through we packed the essentials (dog, toothbrushes, running clothes) and headed to their house to stay the night. So you see, on Saturday I had nothing better to do than go to the Y and run for as long as I could.
When I got there I parked myself on a treadmill next to a guy wearing a Shamrock Marathon hat. I had figured that I'd do about 6 miles, so I grabbed two tabloid magazines, put in my headphones, and got to it. As I ran, I was surprised at how easy it felt. As I neared the 4 mile mark, I could tell that this was going to be one of those runs when I could just go on and on. The treadmills have a 45 minute limit, so once I hit that (at 5.3 miles), it automatically downshifted. I stopped for a moment to wipe the sweat from my brow, noticing that the guy next to me was still at it.
I'm not sure what came over me at that minute, but I decided that I was going to play the outlast game with that guy. I have done this before - for whatever reason someone running on the treadmill near me or around the track at the Y will suddenly just inspire me to want to beat them. To outlast them. To run farther and harder than they did. It also happens during races - the most vivid example I can remember being at the Charlottesville Fall Classic 10k last October. During the last 2 miles I had been following a girl with a perfect blonde braid and seemingly perfect all-black clad body. Even though I was dog tired (the last two miles of that race were terribly hilly), I decided I wasn't going to let perfect Miss Blonde Braid beat me. So I pulled out everything I had and beat her.
I got back on the treadmill, set the speed to 6.7 mph, and checked out my new "competitor." He was running only 6 mph. Ha! Got him there. I also knew that he was also on his second round with the treadmill, having already hit his first 45 minute limit. He was going far... which meant I was going to have to go far too... farther than I had in a long time.
When I had hit the 8 mile mark, he was still going. I had run out of trashy magazines, so I decided to do something I hardly ever do and strike up a conversation. I tugged his sleeve and asked him about the Shamrock. I found out his name was Dave and that he's training for Richmond too, but it will be his 3rd marathon. We had a nice little conversation and then he did what I had been waiting for - he stopped running! I tried not to look elated as we said our good byes.
Thanks to Dave and my competitive streak, I managed to run 10 miles on Saturday. That's the farthest I've run since the half marathon in March. It was just what I needed to give a little shot to my confidence a week before I start my marathon training. AND it resulted in me having my highest mileage week ever - 30 total miles.
So there you have it. The outlast game. Try it the next time you are bored and need some inspiration while stuck on the treadmill. Who knows how far you might end up going.