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.