Competition vs. Cooperation

The other morning I ran 5km in 23 minutes, 52 seconds. It’s the fastest I’ve ever run over more than a few hundred metres. Previously I had never run 5 km under 25 minutes.

Why did I do it? I had been awed and amazed by my wife’s tales from a previous evening where a number of her colleagues had run a relay half-marathon, their times being 18, 20, and 22 minutes per 5 km. For me that is science fiction, jetpack, supercharged running!

So I thought I would try it. Not to show off or to demonstrate that I’m any better than they are. But to see what it feels like and to see if I could overcome myself.

While I was running my 5 km this morning, heart rate hammering at maximum beats, I thought about W. Timothy Gallwey’s pivotal book, The Inner Game of Tennis. I tried to calm Self 1 and access Self 2, relaxing my shoulders, focusing on my breathing, just letting go. It worked!

And I was also reminded of Gallwey’s observations on Competition vs. Cooperation, that Competition and Cooperation are, in fact, mutually compatible and can work in partnership. The aim isn’t to beat the opponent, the aim is to overcome the obstacle that the opponent provides. As such, the opponent is an ally: the bigger the obstacle he/she provides, the better you have to be to overcome it.

And I realised that I wasn’t trying to compare myself with my wife’s colleagues or prove that I am better. I was trying to overcome a worthy challenge that their amazing performances presented. I didn’t come near their performances, but I achieved a 5k time far better than I could ever have previously imagined.

And it felt really good!

Let me know what you think!