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Not About the Run

Posted by: Emily Beers

When people say, “I’m not competitive,” or “I don’t like to compete,” they are essentially announcing to the world they lack courage.


Because competing tells the world, “I care!” Or at the very least, competing tells the world you care enough to put yourself out there. 

And competing at something you’re not good at takes the most courage of all.

For me, long distance running has always required courage. I have been petrified of running more than 200 meters since I was 8 years old.

That summer, I signed up for a kids triathlon with my sister and two of our friends. We spent some time riding bikes, swimming and running here and there. Then the day before the race, I started to get scared. I got so scared I pretended I wasn’t feeling well and pulled out of the race. I just couldn’t face the 2 km run at the end.

That day, my 8-year-old self learned what the feeling of regret was all about. I learned what it felt like to let myself down. I quit before I even began, and although I wasn’t able to articulate what exactly that horrible feeling was in my gut at the age of eight, I know now that I learned what it felt like to lack courage.

Since that day, running has been something I fear. Dread. Loathe. And that fateful triathlon as an 8-year-old has repeated itself in my life many times over.

When I was 11, I signed up for the Como Lake Relays—a 4-person relay, where each person runs 1 km around a lake.  Two days before the event, I pulled out, citing a sprained ankle (that was mostly healed) from gymnastics.

The Terry Fox Run in Grade 5: I was sick. Terry Fox Run in Grade 6: Sick. By Grade 7, I simply said: “I’m fit enough, mom. I don’t need to run 5 km to prove it. I’m not going.” 

Six lap run in Grade 8: “I’m not going to school today.” Period.

Looking back, I got way with it because I was a good athlete who got good grades. My PE teachers had seen me do 50 push-ups  and arm wrestle (and beat) the entire Grade 8 boys football team the week before; what did they care if I missed a simple run? Because that’s what it was to them: A simple run.

Each time I bailed from a run, I had that same feeling I had when I was 8—that horrible feeling.

And then I started CrossFit.

I had no idea long runs were potentially a part of my new sport, until the 2010 Canada Regional in Okotoks, Alberta. The first event was as a 6 km run in the snow. 

It took all my energy just to get myself to line up on the start line and actually start running.

Five years later, this is still where I’m at when it comes to running: I know I can at least survive. I got through the run in Okotoks, and I got through the 3-mile run at the 2014 CrossFit Games. And most recently, I got through the run at the Triple Crown event in Squamish, although making it to the start line wasn’t without an internal battle.

(I apologize to Alissa Betts, who I’ve known since childhood. I chose to air my running grievances to her on the bus ride to the start line and discovered later that my nervousness made her nervous, as well. Sorry Alissa).

The run went as planned: I survived, but as always spent all my energy physically getting myself to the start line. As expected, I slowly trotted my way to a 33rd place finish on that event, my heart beating way faster than it should.

When I got home that night, I asked my boyfriend why he didn’t text me to see how I was doing during the day.

His reply: “It was Squamish. Not Regionals. I looked at the leaderboard. It told me what I needed to know.”

“Didn’t you think I could use some support because I was running?” I asked pathetically? “A little text that says, ‘Don’t worry toots, I still love you.’”

He looked at me with a look of utter confusion.

“Support? I don’t understand women at all,” he said and went back to his football game.

He paused and then added.

“All you did was go for a jog.”

In that moment, I was embarrassed. He was right. I went for a 17-minute trot. That’s it. Why I would need support was understandably beyond him.

My embarrassment over how irrational and dramatic I must have sounded forced me to go back to my childhood, to reflect and admit to myself what I had been doing all those years—to confess to myself what I had done at that triathlon, the Como Lake Relays, the Terry Fox runs and the 6-lap tests. Although I didn’t run fast in Okotoks, or at the Games, and certainly not in Squamish, at least I didn’t wake up Monday morning with that feeling—that feeling where I feel the courage trickle from my body.

Progress comes in all shapes and sizes, and I realized at that moment that I’ve actually made progress. At least I made it to the finish line in Squamish.



Posted by Emily Beers on

Emily Beers, hailing from Vancouver, crosses bridges by being not only a CrossFit athlete, but also a journalist. She has been a regular contributor to the CrossFit Journal since 2011. She qualified and competed at her first CrossFit Games as an individual athlete in 2014.

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September 22, 2015

You summed it up perfectly… You went for a jog. So while I appreciate most of your blogs thus far, and enjoy your cynical writing style (Crossfit can sometimes have to much fluff and constantly panders to sponsors, coordinators and fellow “brave” athletes), you miss the mark on what “courage” is.

You defined courage based on someone’s desire to compete. In a narcissistic world, sure, that makes perfect sense. For a world completely devoid of danger, commitments, sacrifice and uncertainty, you absolutely nailed it. But to the the contrary, the world is ripe with all of those things. So to classfiy people who “don’t like to compete” or “don’t like competition” as *lacking courage" is a farce, only used to solidify your opening statement… Which you lose focus of by the end of the post.

I think to two colleagues I have, both police. These people are not your standard cops walking the beat, sure, they did their time, but now they are part of one of the most elite tactical forces in Canada. They faces numerous real life situations that require “courage” on a daily basis, something that could never and will never compare to exercising. I know multiple firefighters who have literally rappelled from bridges, 100’+ feet to rescue hikers, swimmers, tourist in distress, who have ran…ya maybe not 5k…but ran into burning buildings and have actually pulled people out. Where I getting at is, the individuals I have referenced all do Crossfit. In some cases they devote hundreds of hours designing and implementing their programming. They spend hundreds of hours training for their demanding jobs, many of those hours spent doing Crossfit. All of them do not compete, nor do they have any desire to compete.

What you need to learn is that there is a world outside of the Crossfit bubble and not everything professional exercising is, translates directly to the real world. Perhaps you live a cushy life, seldom face obstacles or difficulties unrelated to a missed Snatch PR or a no rep on a pull up at an insignificant little community competition. I get it, a lot of people use Crossfit to supplement things they are missing in their regualr lives. These things could be, but not limited to…a strong support system of family and friends, experience playing organized sports, experience of being part of a team, general social environments, facing danger, facing adversities, putting in physical effort. The list could go on and on. We live in a very bubble wrapped society where we sometimes confuse what courage actually is, because we have never truly faced a situation that would require courage.

Keep up the great work, but step out of the bubble. Because after all…its just exercise.

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