When I was in the fourth grade, I played basketball for the first time. I knew nothing about it and I really don't remember much of the season except for one story that has been told so many times, it's almost like family folk lore. I had been given the job of throwing the basketball in from the sideline, and on one particular throw in, while the referee was holding the ball up at his shoulder height to make sure everybody was in place before giving the ball to me, I began leaping up, straining as hard as I could to try and grab the ball from him. My parents realized at that moment that even with as little basketball skill and knowledge as I had, when I was on the court there was nothing but me and the ball. Everything else was a detail. That's also when it hit them I might be more than a little competitive.
While that may have been a clue in moment for my parents, I actually knew it at least a full year sooner. In the third grade I sat next to a boy named Dustin. Dustin and I quickly forged a friendship based purely on our desire to race against each other on every single piece of classwork, quiz, or test to see who could finish first. This competition had the unfortunate side effect of extremely bad writing on my end, so bad in fact that in addition to having "chicken scrawl" stamped all over each paper, I also had to be taken out of class once a week for a neat hand writing tutorial. I can remember sitting in that library with the tutor thinking it was funny that she was teaching me how to write, when that wasn't the problem. I knew how to write well. What I didn't know was how to write fast and well. And writing fast was a whole lot more important than writing well at that stage in my life =).
Old habits die hard. I can tell you that the desire to finish first didn't really disappear through elementary school, middle school, or most of college, although the speed was tempered by the fact that I also wanted to do well (another facet of my competitive nature). I was a die hard for basketball, ping pong, and Dr. Mario nintendo, and getting beaten in any of those areas was a blow. This became especially hard after I started dating Nathan and about a year into our relationship he became better than me at the latter two items. I won't lie. There were more than a few ugly fights over a particularly painful Dr. Mario loss, including the first fight of our marriage.
I know, I'm weird. I would like to think that over time, maturity has tempered the competitive side, and in many ways I think it has. But then I have to take an honest look at how I feel when I lose coed volleyball (like I did on Tuesday) and I think again. Anyway, all of that brings me to last night. I am in the first week of my official 12 weeks of 1/2 marathon training, and the short run this week was 2 miles. I decided that I would take that short run last night and run it as fast as I could to start working on speed. I've never really tried to run as fast as I could before, and I can tell you it's quite a bit worse than normal running. I finished, exhausted and breathless, in 16:43. Why did I do it? Well I read yesterday on my good friend Laurin's blog that she just ran a 5k in an amazing time, and I thought to myself, "Time to step it up, my friend. Time to step it up."
So tell me, is competition something you embrace or is it a dirty word in your vocabulary? Share some stories! I'd love to hear them.