Is there such a thing?
Certainly, anyone who has attended races and taken more than a second or two of effort to talk to others, or even just observe, will have seen a wide range of different personalities, especially at events designed to be inclusive like Parkrun.
Yet, I can’t help but have this feeling that I come across more people like myself than I would in any other walk of life. Or maybe its just a ‘birds of a feather’ effect.
So, what do I mean by ‘like myself’?
This is hard to write. Its hard because its requiring a lot of reflection. And I don’t reflect much. I just ‘do’. The Nike execs must have been reading my CV when they signed off on ‘Just do it’. I stick my toe in water, think, “that looks nice” and then throw myself in headfirst.
So, now you’re thinking… oh boy… here he is, another newcomer to athletic activity who already produces results that I could only dream of… Well, sort of….Well actually, bullshit. I am very definitely middle of the pack. I just don’t want to be. I want to win. I never will, but I want to. And despite knowing I never will, I am still trying to. A Psychologist has just quit their career and taken up knitting.
That sounds like ultra competitive doesn’t it?
Yeah, sort of…
I get a big kick out of beating someone in a race. But one of the reasons I love running and triathlon, is because of the community.
The social beast.
I am told that man has always been a social animal, with a need for companionship and sense of belonging. Well, when they dished out that medicine, I think I got a double dose.
I have to be part of something. Without it, life is a mess. The idea of climbing a mountain alone, and sitting at the top to admire the view, no matter how beautiful isn’t one that lifts me. Undertake that same climb with a group of friends, and I am the happiest man in the world.
Yet, here is my essential conflict. I join in. Oh boy, do I join in. I become deeply embedded in that circle of friends. Yet, I desperately want to beat them all in every race I enter. And along the way, I will do whatever it takes to encourage them to their very best performance (whatever that is for them), and will be especially pleased for their them if they win, and beat me.
That same Psychologist has even stopped knitting.
Running and Triathlon take huge mental strength. Often the focus is on physical prowess, which lets be honest, is a pretty important part of being any good, but the difference between the good and the great also appears to be found inside their heads.
Which is why I find myself constantly surprised when I dig in and grit it out.
You see, mental resilience is probably not my strong suit.
Its not that I roll over at the first challenge… I am a little tougher than that, but I am not one of the Roman gladiators who continue to fight until they pass out from loss of blood. I will sigh, and give up a little too readily on occasions.
I do find that when I reach that point of giving up, it tends to make me feel down, feel low. I doubt this is unusual, and it would have the same impact on many, but I’ve often wondered if I am inclined to a little depression. Not full blown, need to see a GP, depression (which I am wholly sympathetic to), but just a bit ‘down’. And when I am feeling low, I really can’t be arsed to do much. Not ideal for getting out there and training hard!
Interestingly, there does seem to be a lot of people who take to running in particular, but also crazy endurance challenges as an antidote to depression.
The Psychologists are back, and it feels like they’ve got a task on their hands.