Being In The Game: When Competing Isn’t Competition

After several years of varied, interesting challenges that meant I ran little or not at all, my challenges slowly but surely are beginning to resolve.

When a fun trail race came up, I tentatively inquired into a volunteer job that required running. A seasoned ultra distance runner later told me, “You’ve got plenty of speed for that job!” She gave my world view a spin and I adjusted accordingly. I contacted the race director to let her know I had undersold my abilities and asked for the job.

That weekend my world view got an even bigger spin. I participated in the practice run–my first trail run with others—which was held several weeks before for the race. I was amazed! I did about 9 miles and I wasn’t at the back of the pack. Now that’s saying something when running with women 10 and 20 years younger! I adjusted my view again, followed a friend’s suggestion and promptly took more action sized to that new world view–I put myself on the wait list hoping to get into the actual race, and I did.

Come race day, tendrils of mist were rising off the water as I crossed a bridge en route to the start. The weather was chilly, which further lent an air of excitement to a morning on wooded trail. What a sense I had of everything coming together–the sports doctors I had seen, the wondering when and if I would ever be able to participate in trail running, the volunteering I had done for other trail runs, and the books I had read. I knew some of the little things that can make such a difference-how to minimize chafing, when to start refueling and that a quarter of a peanut-butter and honey sandwich was just perfect, how to keep hydrated, and how to make best use of an aid station.

We ran, more than 180 of us, on the single-track trail up hills and down, over fallen trees, and across muddy banks with streams narrowed from the summer drought. It was just what I love about running–good, honest hard work, with the soulful bonus of running amidst woodland beauty. Most importantly, I felt replete–I didn’t need to race–being in the game was both enough and plenty.

I finished in the top two-thirds and placed sixth out of 12 in my age group. I was pleased and still mystified:

Why hadn’t I known I could do this?

A simple explanation comes from applying one of James Flaherty’s assessment models that he credits to Jurgen Habermas. His model is “I, We, It” and he describes it in Coaching: Evoking Excellence in Others.

The “I” (self-management) is the most important. Picture it as the base of a pyramid. The “We” (relationships) is next most important. The “It” (facts, events) is at the top of the pyramid. In my case, the “I”–my self-management–had been excellent, but I was deficient in the other two domains: the “We” and the “It.” I had been running solo without the benefit of running with others (the “We”), and thus, didn’t have the facts and data (the “It”) to assess where I stood and recalibrate. Can you imagine an executive being successful like this? She wouldn’t be

So often we grow and can’t see how much and how far we have grown. Yet in about two-and-a-half-weeks’ time, I was hand-delivered the chance to watch my view and actions change like time-lapsed photography of a tight bud opening into a gorgeous bloom. I was able to bring in all three domains–the I, the We, and the It–to allow a wonderful new possibility, one that allowed me to fully be in the game to run a half-marathon on trails. Oh yes, and the chance to wear my beautiful blue leopard-print gaiters.


U.S. Library of Congress ISSN 2164-7240

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