“You’re toxic I’m slipping under …” B.Spears 2003
This is something I often think “should I be writing about this?”, a subject that’s a little taboo, or a behaviour that is just to be accepted in the world of competition. If I write about it then they have won, they know they have bothered me… Does that make me weak? I don’t think so… It just makes me self aware!
So what do I mean when I say ‘toxic competition’? Not all competition is healthy and not all is the type you desire to make you work harder, train harder, be better and so on.
Some types of competitive behaviour can be toxic, negative and leave a sour impact on some in sports.
Over the years I have seen people quickly adding competitors in their age category on Strava before befriending on say Facebook or Instagram and even before having a conversation with the person.
That’s not to say everyone who does this is toxic or doing so in a negative manner… However, when you have people following your life, your training, your accomplishments, when they too are on a similar path, you would expect a level of mutual respect and care to all of those aspects. Not just your recent Strava running times.
For me, healthy competition is when we root for each other, want to learn from each other and genuinely happy for our competitors success. Acknowledging their life in a positive way. Having respect for them as a fellow competitor no matter how fast or slow their time is at that time. Being aware of their dog training ethics and being in line with their morals and standards.
Sadly the toxic competition will know your weekly mileage, your training routine, your splits, your fastest 5k time, your recent race results and positions… They probably know the age / weight and breed of your dog and can feed this back to you. Are they really watching with admiration or are they watching and hoping that you trip ?
These people don’t know much about you as a person, who you really are, what makes you – you! You are often judged on how fast you can run and the size / breed of your dog.
You may post up about an injury or a set back you are facing, these people will be the first on that post showing their ‘sympathy’ and wanting to know how bad it is, at the same time as letting you know they have some ailment which – of course – is worse than yours.
Should you let these people bother you? No, of course not… easier said than done, right?
No doubt me writing this will have people asking, “why are you giving it more thought, more air time?”
For me I have often fell for these types of relationships in the racing world. I am now at an age and understanding that they really don’t matter. It took a while to come to that conclusion in myself. I was put off from attending events, as would worry about the digs I would get and the silent treatment when my race position went down the way.
I put myself in a position where I like to share info with the world on my sport and on my personal journey. I see this as part of my profession, by doing so I inspire, motivate and introduce people to the sport. However it attracts those who like to compare their insecurities off of mine. Hoping they can better me in some way to make themselves seem more successful or important – I don’t know!
Yes, it is down to me to not let this sort of toxicity in to my life and really it is my problem, not theirs (if it is bothering me), and now at the ripe age of 37 I delete, unfollow and don’t engage.
However it’s easy to fall into that trap, especially if – like me – you are social and open. You should never have to keep all your cards that close to your chest. For the one toxic person that leaves a sour taste there are many more who will learn, grow from you and be inspired… but also be happy for you in all aspects of your life.
When I think of some of my best races and results I am most proud of, I don’t think any of them resulted in me being on a podium. I have been so fortunate (or just ran so bloody well ) to be on the podium in a lot of races I have taken part in. When I think back to the times where I was smiling from ear to ear and went home really proud, I never had a medal!
The better I got, the more pressure I had on myself, then the harder it is to come back down. I am currently working hard to get back to real acceptance of my own hard work, and that result in itself. Working towards caring less about my overall position and more about my personal experience.
We are all in the sport for one reason, a love of running with our dogs, when that reason is overshadowed with being better than the person in front of you or the main focus on a time, that’s when the sport becomes a negative and less about the dog.
If anything I hope I can hinder negativity of toxic competition come between you and your dog’s experiences. It is hard, as you feel these people want to see you fail in some way. However focusing on your true goal which will always come down to team work and enjoyment in what you do with your dog you really can’t fail.
Hey we might just inspire them to think the same! 😉
There is so much to the sport of canicross, and race positions and PB times are way down in the pecking order.
I hope this can help some who may feel intimidated by toxic competition to know that really it is not your business or your issue what they have going on.
This is a small part of any competitive sport, the good really does out shine it. We just need to keep our energy on that. Like always I like to talk about the taboo, sometimes its cathartic…
Keep focusing in between those dog ears, keep your eye on your trail and enjoy every aspect of it.. not just the results!