Friday, September 18, 2009

Competition, anyone?

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.


The Portas said...

I just had to respond to this because I have always had very random competitive games/things. And wouldn't you know, DR. MARIO was one of those things! My mom and used to play such heated games of Dr. M over and over.

I definitely have the competitive gene and it has always been such a random thing for me. Most things, except for a handful, I couldn't care less if I get beat at. No one can beat me at Dr. M, though! :)

Shaeffer Family said...

Oh Angie! It is so funny that you mentioned Dr. Mario. Mike and I have the Nintendo NES (that's right, the old school one) hooked up in our bedroom right now. Every night before we go to bed we play on levels 1, 5, 10, 15, and 20. For the past few times he has beaten me pretty badly. So, the other day while Cameron was napping (and I should have been cleaning and preparing to make dinner) I sat in the bedroom for about 45 minutes playing by myself in hopes of bettering my chances of winning. Too funny!!!!

Lee said...

Take your time getting faster! It will happen! I have resigned myself to being on the slower side of normal and have settled for just trying to go the long distances. I think some people have a knack for speed and I don't think I'm one of those people. But in the end, slow and steady training will give you huge improvements, but getting too speedy before you're ready might injure you. Of course, it's all about listening to your body, so if it feels not too uncomfortable then. . .you go girl! I'm really not all that competitive when it comes to running. I definitely a competitive side, but only in a few specific realms.

Me said...

Nope not competitive. You can have the ball and finish first in my world.

Adam & Amy Wilson said...

Oh Angie, I miss you! :)

(Random memory that has NOTHING to do with your post as I see it, but it came to mind the other day when sparked by something else: pulling apart your split ends while sitting in the top/back row of one of our Psych. classes @ Union. We were a sight the 2 of us: your eyes crossed looking into the very details of your hair and me always drenched in my beverage of choice for the day because some how my Starbucks travel cup always created the perfect physics for spillage.) :)

Keep up the competition-- it gives life flavor!

Laurin said...

Hah! Angie, just now reading this (been out of town). Not competitive in the least bit whatsoever except with myself. I do admit that after I ran that race in that amount of time, I thought: Huh. Wonder if I could step it up and do better in a bigger race???
Are you game to try with me??? ; )

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