Here's the thing. I'm a bit competitive. I think I may have blogged about it a time or two. In fact, this is the main motivator in my life. No joke. You see me dragging my feet over something I don't want to do? Make it into a competition. Done. It's just that simple.
Well, not really. Because I'm on to you. So it has to be made into a competition in a way that doesn't feel like you're manipulating me. The best way to get around this is to make it a competition with someone I dislike. Then, even if I feel you're manipulating me, I can't resist. I'm dead serious here. It's very sad. I can hear my cousin and z snickering about it right now.
But last year, my dear friend Candy taught me an important lesson about competition.
As part of her wellness team at work, Candy put together a team to walk in the Jingle Bell Run/Walk. I had run this 5K before and thought it was great fun, so I agreed to participate on her team.
The morning of the 5K dawned sunny, but cold. I was wearing at least three layers under my team shirt and a sock hat in an effort to stay warm. Still, the mood was festive as we looked at the colorful costumes around us. There were running reindeer, Christmas trees, and even a family that was dressed as a string of lights, each a different color and connected by a cord. They were pulling a wagon in which sat a child with a radio blaring Christmas music.
The trouble began when I found out that one of the teammates was planning on running the 5K. No big deal, right? Except that ANOTHER teammate wanted to be at the starting line to take his picture. And then wanted to come back and join the rest of the team to walk. The solution to this? He would wait at the start/finish line until the runners began, and then come back to where our team was huddled. We would wait for him to return before beginning the walk.
I was uneasy with this from the start. First, we were already huddled near the rear of the crowd of people participating. Second, once the starting bell rang, the entire mass of people surged forward... around us as we stayed frozen waiting for our teammate.
I tried to inch forward with the crowd, certain that our lost teammate would eventually find us, but Candy was oblivious to my pain, and insistent on staying right where we were. I took deep breaths as more and more people passed us on their way to the starting line.
"It's okay Emily. This is not a race. You are not in this to win. You don't have to be competitive all the time."
Finally, our teammate showed up. We were free to walk. WHEEE!
I'll admit, Candy was not happy with the pace that I set. We were already far enough back that I was uncomfortable, so I wanted to make up some ground. Our team stretched out as we each settled into our pace. When we came to a portion of the route that doubled back on ourselves, I was at once both dismayed at how far back we were, and relieved at the "safe" number of people behind us. At least we wouldn't be last.
As we finished the double back, Candy mentioned that she wanted to stop and get a picture of the rest of the team coming up behind us.
STOP?! I won't lie. I had to bite my tongue. Hard. Eeek!! Still, it wasn't my event, so stop we did. To take pictures. To POSE FOR PICTURES. It was the worst form of torture because Candy didn't even know what was happening.
More and more people passed us. The string of lights family? Yep. Passed us. Pulling a wagon. The end of the line drew near.
Oh HELL no. This was not going to happen. I set a quicker pace after the picture stop. Eventually Candy mentioned that we were walking a bit faster than she preferred and I was forced to confess what I was going through. She laughed at me. Thinking she was not competitive, she thought I was being ridiculous and slowed down. She had conversations with teammates and others around us. She was outgoing and friendly as is her nature. She was also completely unconcerned with the people passing us.
Meanwhile, I watched in despair as the radio playing Christmas music got further and further ahead. "This is not a race. It's okay to not be competitive." I chanted this internally as I walked.
In the end, we finished with only two people behind us. Third and fourth from LAST. OMG. It hurts to even type that now, almost eight months later. One lady behind us was telling us how much it meant to her to be able to walk in the arthritis walk since arthritis had been such a crippling disease in her life.
I felt for her. I really really did. But that was outweighed by the fear that she was going to pass us, so I avoided eye contact and kept walking.
When the results came in (that I'm not going to link to) and Candy sent them to me, I was relieved by two things. 1) I wasn't last, and 2) I came in ahead of Candy.
That's right. I said it. I was glad I beat my friend. The "non competitive one" who later recanted and expressed a desire to never finish that far down in the standings again. Uh huh. Who's competitive now??
Being last sucks. Being competitive is better. Lesson learned.