What’s a win?

Ahhh. Sitting at my computer this morning, it’s quiet (the kids are still asleep after a late night of fireworks) and I’m enjoying my coffee in my PJs, rather than sweaty running clothes because it’s a rest day. A special one. After a month of almost weekly races, I’m done for a while, and it feels good.

I finished this fun few weeks wondering: as a runner, what constitutes a win?  So, I’m putting it to you.

I preface the question by admitting that I am extremely Type A, and while I am very friendly and encouraging in my competitive sense, I am extremely competitive. Running is a fabulous outlet for this. Like most, I’ll never be good enough to really compete on the grand scale, but I’m just good enough (and damn committed enough) to occasionally pull out a place win.

For those of you who have won yourself a bobblehead, a mug, a pair of shoes or something else unique and special because you’re a fastie or got lucky that day, you know – it is a rewarding feeling. But as I look back on this hot month of races, I find myself questioning – truly, what’s a win? And do that matter?

In the spirit of sharing, here are my results from the past month and thoughts on their value.

June 16 5K

  • PR for time at 22:24 (Win!)
  • 1st Place AG and 2nd Place Women Overall (Win! Got a fun bobblehead trophy.)
  • This was a small-ish community race with maybe 400-500 runners, so the competitive pool wasn’t huge. Does the small scale diminish the win? I hadn’t done a 5K in more than 2 years, so I trained for this, and ran it just to see if I liked the distance.

June 30 10K

  • Not a PR – 46:56 (previous PR is 46:14) – I was able to take it easy because the lead pack was at this pace and we were alone out front from mile 3 on. (Plus, it was stinky hot.)
  • 1st Place Women Overall (Win! Got a plaque and $50 to Dick’s  – good thing because my shoes were shot.)
  • Again, this was a small community race with 350 runners, split between 5k and 10k, and it was the most poorly handled race in memory. The times were entered manually and when all was said and done there was some question whether another woman had finished ahead of me – not the case, because I ran with the same four people the entire race and the other runners in my pack were guys. It was cleared up, but the confusion diminished the excitement of my first overall gender class win. And aAain, does the scale and confusion diminish the win?

July 4 10K

  • PR! (45:59 – what?) It’s nuts to have PR’d the Peachtree Road Race (PRR). It is the world’s largest 10K with almost 60K starters (about 58K finishers), and I was honored/awarded/freaked out by getting to run from the A Corral. Corrals go all the way to Y – and the only people in front of you in A are the elites (read: invited, prize money winning Kenyans and Olympians) and Sub-seeded runners/aliens who have done a sub 33:00. So, just being there is a win.
  • What I really wanted was two things – a PR (win) and a top finishing spot (not a win). Ultimately, I was 29th out of 2688 in my AG (women 35-39) and 1662 – top 1% in my AG, top 3% overall. But it wasn’t even close to fast enough to be top 1000 finishers and earn that coveted PRR mug.

After all that, I’ll admit that this post was precipitated by being somewhat disappointed that I didn’t hit the top 10 for my AG or hit that top 1000 finisher mark (or even close to it). But there were more than 57K finishers! Lordy. Let’s cut us some slack, right? So why the disappointment?

Let’s remember, it is a win simply to put ourselves out there.

Three years ago, I agreed (hesitantly) when my girlfriend said we should do a Half Marathon, and I thought it would be fun. I’d never really raced at all, just run with the dogs or jogging stroller. So the HM was pressure-free because I knew there was no way I could win so I would just run my best run. And I did, and it was fun. Then something happened over the past three years. I found my legs. I became the athlete I never was as a kid. I discovered a passion for structured training. And that was even more fun. And then I started to win. Just sometimes, and not on any kind of big scale. And that is fun too.

Somewhere in the past three years of training, racing, placing and hitting PR’s, the spirit of running simply for fun has gotten muddled. Every piece of it is fun, but when one piece doesn’t happen (a crappy run, a non-PR, a non-win), is it less fun? Is it okay that some of the fun is found in reaching those goals? There’s ego in that, and that’s never a good thing. Is it? And to add yet another level to the question, I wonder, should we qualify our wins as runners/bikers/triathletes/swimmers? Does one kind or win (e.g., a PR) mean more than another (e.g., AG in a small race)? Does it even matter? 

Questions, questions. Ponder for me, will you? I know I’m not the only one who thinks about this.

What do you call a win? When do you feel the most accomplishment as an athlete? Should the process of training and racing even take the potential of a PR or a win into account?

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4 thoughts on “What’s a win?

  1. Great post! I’m not in a position to actually win awards, and I focus on my own goals and PRs. The PR – or feeling that I figured out a new distance – is a win enough for me!

  2. Such a great point about figuring “out a new distance” – that is an enormous accomplishment. Hadn’t thought of that, and you’re so right! It keeps us from getting stuck in a rut and does more for our development than just focusing on doing one thing (like an HM, in my case) better and better just through repetition. Thanks!

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