Thursday, January 19, 2012

friendly competition: running camaraderie

In so many sports, the competition is the enemy. You go to battle on the field or on the court. Members of opposing teams trash each other or their girlfriends. Maybe it helps get players pumped up or doing their best...but is it really the image we need? Do you really want to look up (or to have your kids look up) to people who publicly insult others?

Maybe it is the lack of big money or big media attention- but do you know who you DON'T usually catch trashing each other? Distance runners (and probably most endurance athletes in general). This article by Runner's World reminded me of why I love watching and following distance running and runners (other than the fact that I like to run): Competition Can Be Kind.
It also reminded me of one of the things I love about participating in races. I can be in the same race as someone going for a world record or a course record or a national record...and not only do I not care that he or she is finishing when I'm halfway done, but I'm cheering him or her along. The last time I ran the Ottawa 10K, Deriba Merga was trying to break the world record (unfortunately he didn't), Rick Ball was trying to break the single leg amputee world record (he did), and since it was a "battle of the sexes" race where the women start first- the women were trying to run fast enough for the men not to catch up.

That year, the 10K route ran along both sides of the canal. As I ran along one side of the canal at about kilometre 3, I could hear a ripple of cheering and noise going through the crowd. As I looked to my left, I realized it was because on the other side of the canal, the elites were running by. We were all cheering for the people who were kicking our butts.

Yes, I realize that we weren't really all in the same race. We mortals were racing for fun or personal challenge while the elites were racing for money. But the camaraderie among runners is still there. That same race, a man came up behind me just as I was struggling a bit to maintain my pace, looked at my bib to find out my name and said "you're doing great Kristen" and ran beside me for about 15 seconds. I could tell he was trying to get me to "latch on" so that he could pull me along while I struggled.

In another race (a 5K in which I just had a terrible terrible race) a guy came up behind me when I slowed down and perhaps cursed myself a bit and said "no, you can't slow down- you were my muse- come on, let's finish this together." And my experience in Oka had another good moment with another runner (that time I couldn't keep up).  I love that feeling of "we've all been there" that goes on in running and in races.

Yes, there are jerks in every sport and there are great people with great sportsmanship in every sport (Jarome Iginla? Genuinely good guy from all accounts). But that Runner's World article and watching the video of Reid Coolsaet cheering on Eric Gillis as the announcer was counting down the seconds for Eric to cross the finish line and make the Olympic Standard will always warm my heart and make me smile.

Do you have a favourite example of sportsmanship?


Rebecca said...

In the Ottawa school boards (all four of them), we travel as a region to OFSAA (Ont Track and Field championships) together, including the same buses and hotels. Many of the students become friends throughout the years, even if they are competitors. I've travelled with the group 2x and I can say I've never been prouder of a group of teens. Not only are they exceptionally well behaved, but they help each other out, cheer each other on and in general display great sportsmanship. When we held OFSAA for Cross Country, so many of my friends who had never been to one of our running events commented on how nice the athletes were and how they barely heard anything negative. One of my students was in the finals for the 80m hurdles and was racing against another Ottawa girl who she had been trying to beat all season. The other girl won, but when they were accepting their medals they were hugging and giving each other high fives.

I really enjoy doing the street races with my students and fellow staff. You never know when one will be right next to you cheering you on. We wore bright orange shirts for the 5K and many people noticed our "power of orange" shirts. I stopped wearing my earphones during the races because it is fun to hear everyone cheering you on. But nothing can beat hose-man. He is my very best friend

Nicole @ "Haute Runner" said...

I totally agree!! That's probably why I get so emotional while racing or spectating. It seems so different from a lot of other sports.

Kelsey said...

Great post! This has me all excited for my first half next month. Nothing feels better when you are losing your focus that having a complete stranger give you some positive energy.

Marlene said...

I loved watching that footage from the Scotiabank finish. Too bad I was still out there running because it would have been amazing to see live!

Agreed, runners just plain rock.. all around!

Anonymous said...

Great post. I totally agree. I've been in a couple of races where people ask me to keep going because they are following my lead. It's really cool to not be on the same team, but feel like you are.

Laura said...

TOTALLY agree! I love coming out and cheering people gives them a boost and a simple act to make YOU feel good as well.

...Reid is running ATB this year..just in case you needed more incentive to sign up....

Lori said...

Cheering works! I mentally envision my kids cheering me on (if I am running alone) and it helps me to the end.
Loved your piece about the fella trying to get you to latch on:)
There are lots of haters, but one kind moment can make a marked difference.