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There is something about competitive sports that I really enjoy. Yesterday, while watching the beginning of the ACC championship game, I actually got emotional. (Someone is making a few amazing commercials.) The drive, the determination, the hard work, the absolute strength that those athletes show is absolutely amazing. I still remember a few years ago watching the Boston Celtics play the Miami Heat when Rondo dislocated his elbow. He kept playing and continued to put forth his absolute best, 100%. There is something indescribable about watching an athlete (or anyone else for that matter)  give it their all. It warms my heart.

Today during hot yoga, I had a revelation. I finally realized that what I thought was the genuine quality of competitiveness, is actually the flaw of comparison. I made a point to place my mat in the front corner right next to the heat vents. I didn’t want to  be distracted by looking at how much better someone else was than me, or how much better I was than someone else. However, when I found myself looking to see if anyone else had a better dancer pose than me, I finally started to see my problem. Then when the instructor said we could come out of camel pose whenever we were ready and my initial thought was I want to be the last one coming out of camel pose, I came to understand that this is a serious problem.  Really Tracie? Why are you competing/comparing yourself with the sweaty stranger across the room who you don’t even know? Why are you getting your value from how much better (or worse) you are than someone else? Shouldn’t it be more like you held camel pose for as long as you could today and that’s all that matters?

Over our delicious paleo dinner tonight, I shared my thoughts with Mario. I then came to realize a few more things… I have a fabulous older sister who I love dearly. She is one of my best friends and she is one of the most giving people I know. Growing up, however, I always followed in her footsteps and did all of the same things she did. I took a lot of the same AP/Honors classes, took the same dance classes, was a member of the same dance team, etc. I was pretty decent at all of those things, but I was never as good my sister. I’m 99.9% sure I spent my childhood years comparing myself to her accomplishments. On the flip side, I loved to play basketball, rollerblade, play tennis (or at least act like I could), go hiking, ride my bike, or anything else that required being outdoors. (I have no doubt in my mind that my poor neighbor hated when I called her every single day to come out and play.) I never followed through (as a younger Tracie)  with the things that excited me the most and therefore, I don’t think I’ve ever really understood what I do well, other than by comparing myself to others.

I know I’m a good runner but I compare my times with the other local 29 year olds. I know I’m good at yoga (thanks to all those years of dance), but I’m often times too busy comparing myself to someone else to appreciate the fact I’m trying my hardest in that 100 degree room. Whenever I get beside anybody on any cardio machine at the gym, my goal is always to go faster and harder. I get my value by comparison. Not good.

My point is that perhaps I have done well with my running because I want to be near the local fast runners. But if I can just let go of comparing myself to them, maybe I’ll be able to find my best and not my best in comparison to… I need to give it my all and not just enough to be better than someone else. As Mario reminded me tonight – coaches always tell their athletes to give it 100%. It doesn’t matter the outcome. It matters that they give it 100%. Recognize your flaws and improve upon them. I mean isn’t that what Michael Jordan did?

Happy Trails and Happy Running,



Recovery Update: I’m reading Chrissie Wellington’s book and it’s keeping me happy and focused. Hot yoga is helping with that too. 🙂

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Another great post Tracie, you’ve really upped the game lately (sometimes injury brings out the best of us in other ways). I am sure you aren’t alone in the competitive instincts, I think it’s part of the DNA of many runners – those who learn to compete at the right time and relax at other times are those who can be successful in the long run. I’ve just left dailymile partly because I constantly compared my progress was others and was getting frustrated about falling behind a few (while probably overlooking the fact that I was advancing on others). It’s not a healthy way to train, as we each progress in our own manner.

    March 19, 2013
    • Ok now I feel a little pressure. 🙂 I’ve always valued your feedback so I’ll do my best to keep at it! Thanks for the words of support.

      I think your last sentence sums it up best: it’s not a healthy way to train, as we each progress in our own manner. So very, very true. And the thing I realized yesterday is it’s actually mentally liberating to let go of the comparisons and to focus on yourself. You can only think so many thoughts in a day, so why spend them on someone else?

      March 19, 2013
  2. Nice catch on that one: competitiveness is not about comparison. My coach is really trying to unravel this for me. You should never compare yourself to anyone except on race day. And even then it’s just a number and a time and you have no idea what happened on that day. You only compare you to you — and even then each training cycle, month, week or day is different. You will never run two runs the same way — the same pace or the same course. You may run the same route faster and PB on a particular course, but you are not the same you as the first time around. Progress can also be measured by doing and intention and effort.

    March 20, 2013
    • You make such a good point – no two runs will ever be the same and as a runner, we are always changing. And I’ve found it to be mentally easier when I stop worrying with that the heck everyone else is doing. 🙂 I should only focus on me.

      March 21, 2013
      • Now if we could only take our own advice!

        March 21, 2013
  3. Trace (I know you hate it when I call you that….sorry!), I love you, too, and couldn’t be more proud of all that you do! Your determination and hard work is ever inspiring! I think it’s just part of human nature to compare ourselves to others from time to time. Just like you compared yourself to me, I compared myself to my friends and classmates. At times it is healthy competition, other times it is just self-destructive. We all long to be the best at something. It’s finding that “something” that is the hard part. Fortunately, as we get older we learn more about ourselves and gravitate towards interest areas where we shine. You are most certainly the athlete in the family….a wonderful, determined, hard-working, and beautiful athlete! (You’re also the cook, the “chiller” sibling, and many other fabulous things.) I’m sorry you felt you had to do what I did when we were younger, but am happy knowing you’ve found a path of your own….a place in the world where no star shines brighter than yours. Love you!

    March 23, 2013

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