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Women aren’t competitive…What now!?!?!

January 13, 2010

I was at the gym this past Monday, doing my time on the stairclimber and trying to ignore the really smelly old man next to me by reading the newest issue of Runner’s World. I know it isn’t the New Yorker, per my 2010 goal, but it’s one exception I’m allowing. Great magazine; always love it even though it’s quite repetitive month to month but it really knows how to fill a niche. And I really enjoy reading it. Most of the time. Well, I was fully engrossed and reading a column that was about men’s inherent need to pass other runners, whether or not they’re faster. It’s that silly testosterone. Ok. Whatever. Then I read this: “Women care less, I think. Elise (the author’s wife) says she doesn’t feel tension when she passes women and doesn’t mind when she’s passed herself. a friend told me that passing only makes her feel a little guilty.” Ummm…what now?? I essentially read this as saying that women are not competitive. Wait a minute. That can’t be right. I read it again. And again, thinking I had read it wrong. Nope. I read it right. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I disagree. Or, at least, I do not belong in this blanket generalization—in the slightest.

(one note on this article–It is from a column and I know it doesn’t reflect the views of the editors and I think the author was making a joke. very aware of that)

It’s pretty funny because I was never that competitive in sports growing up, although I played my fair share. I was a (bad) competitive (meaning I competed, not that I was competitive) ice skater until I was 14, but was so hindered by nerves and stage fright that I never ever felt any sense of competition. I played tennis on my high school’s team and could have pushed myself much more than I did to become a better, and more competitive, player, but I never did. There were a lot of people much better than me, and I didn’t really care about improving my rank on the team. True, I hated losing, but I wasn’t trying to get better. When I became a coxswain for my crew team in college, somehow my inner competitive freak came out. To be a good cox, you have to be competitive. You can’t yell and motivate your rowers if you don’t want to win yourself. During regattas, I would say (well, more like scream) stuff I would have never said in real life—all in the name of true competition and the desire to win. The adrenaline, drive, craving for a win was what I felt every time I would sit in that boat, waiting anxiously for the gun to go off. When we didn’t win the New England Championships because one of my rower’s oars got caught underneath the boat, I was heartbroken. I watching longingly as the winning team threw their cox in the river (a tradition). The ups and downs of competition: that’s what makes it true competition. True elation when you succeed, feelings of loss and longing when you don’t. Rowing (or coxing) really brought out that competitive side of me that has flourished with running.

I run to race. I love running by myself along the river, on the treadmill, through my parent’s neighborhood in Cleveland, to explore different places I visit. But, I am deeply enamored with racing. Everything that I said to describe the feeling before a regatta—the adrenaline, drive, craving for a win—is the same way I feel before and during a race. Ok, maybe not a win, but a personal win. I’m not going to be winning any NYRR races anytime soon, but racing is a time for PRs and pushing yourself to the max. And boy do I get competitive then, with myself and others. Right away after I pass the start line, I weave my way to get with faster runners in order to push myself more. I am not happy until I am surrounded by red race bibs (no joke—I look around. Do I see lots of yellow bibs? Keep going Bets! Let’s find some red and blue—the two fastest pace groups at NYRR races). I love finding people to pick off during races. Finding a runner at my pace about 50 yards ahead of me and just zeroing in. And passing them. Ooooo, it feels so good—what a boost! I don’t know about this author’s wife, but I never feel guilty passing other runners, and I hate it when others pass me. At the Brooklyn Half Marathon this past May, I saw a girl I recognized from my gym during the race. I saw her about 25 meters ahead of me and knew that I had to pass her. Let me tell you about this girl: she is ripped. Like, the most ripped person I’ve ever seen. You know that trainer Jackie from Work-Out on Bravo? She is ripped like that. And she runs. I’ve seen her log a ton of fast miles on the treadmill. Oh, and she’s covered in bad-ass tattoos. In other words, she intimidates me, a lot. But I was ready for a challenge. I wanted to prove to myself that I could pass her. It took me about a mile to do so, but I did. And then at the finish line, I saw her cross about 5 minutes after I did. I mean, who knows—she could have been injured or have had a bad day. But, I passed her and finished before her and for my competitive side, it felt great (the cherry on top of a fabulous race).

As much as I love passing people while running, be it at a race or a casual jog, I’m mostly competitive with myself, especially during races. Deep down I want every race to be a PR. I want to kill myself in that race to prove to myself that I did the best that I could. You might have noticed that for several race reports I wrote that I had no time expectations. I wrote that, and tell myself before, for those races so I don’t become disappointed with myself in the end if I don’t have an amazing time. But, I love (LOVE) getting a PR. It can keep me lifted for days. True, being so internally competitive leads to me being especially hard on myself (see Joe Kleinerman 10K), and something I would like to ease up on in the coming year (see my Goals), but that’s, for me, what makes racing what it is. It’s the competition, both with yourself and your fellow runners.

Here’s a question for readers, especially women, because I was so curious by that statement in Runner’s World. Are you competitive??? Tell me more 

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Jordan permalink
    January 13, 2010 8:26 pm

    That’s ridiculous. I am crazy competitive. If someone tries to grab the last slice of pizza IT IS ON.

    • Betsy permalink*
      January 14, 2010 4:06 am

      i will never cross you. or steal your pizza

  2. January 13, 2010 8:57 pm

    I’m not that competitive, but I am when it comes to passing men. I can’t tell you how good it feels when I pass dudes, who look as young and as fit as I am.

    • Betsy permalink*
      January 14, 2010 4:08 am

      the best is on the treadmill at the gym. i love running next to crazy buff, jacked-up guys. they try to run my speed then die after 1/4 mile. i’m good for 6 more miles, thanks!

  3. MSM permalink
    January 13, 2010 9:06 pm

    I am not a runner but I can be VERY competitive, even if I act like I don’t care.

    Ps I didn’t know tattoos intimidate you Betsy ;)

    • Betsy permalink*
      January 14, 2010 4:07 am

      people with tattoos who pass out while receiving them don’t intimidate me ;)
      this girl did. she’s scary!!!!

  4. January 14, 2010 6:50 am

    I’m somewhat competitive…it’s more so when someone who looks like a “fair weather” runner flies past me at the beginning of a race and then I catch back up to them later…I feel like I need to show them what a real runner is like!?

  5. January 15, 2010 7:17 pm

    I like to hunt people down and pass them any chance I get. :) I once did a speed workout by telling myself I needed to pass at least 15 runners (real runners, no strollers, no dogs, no fatties) from entering the park around W108 to Columbus Circle. I kicked my own ass that day and ended up passing 22 runners. Rock on.
    Oh, and I LOVE reading about your days as a cox. I rowed for a year and 1/2 at UNH and when someone left and we needed a new cox, I was up because I was smallest and firey. I LOVED it. It was a whole different perspective on the sport and you’re right- you say shit you’d NEVER say in real life. My coach made me record myself during a big race one time and she listened to it and came to me and was like “Holy crap you have fire inside!” I got chills listening to that tape. :0) what school did you cox for? We probably were in some of the same regattas! I was on the team from 2001-2003.

    • Betsy permalink*
      January 20, 2010 4:17 pm

      I can have a high, squeaky voice sometimes, so my coach would have me use my “man-voice” when I cox’d. It became a joke throughout the rest of college, my friends yelling at me to use my man-voice. I was a totally different person, though, when I cox’d, and had the best time. I went to Conn College, and was on the team from 2001-2003 too!!! I bet we were totally at the same races. Crazy!!

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