How Competitive Are You?

Running addicts can be hard to take, but being laissez-faire isn't ideal, either. "Competition motivates you, but you need to focus on your own performance, not on how others do," says performance counsellor Shaunna Taylor of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. Find out whether your competitive fire is raging out of control or if it needs to be tamed.

Competitive Demon

The Sign: You do someone else's workout at your expense
The Solution: "Listening to your own body is more effective than trying to match someone else," says Janet Hamilton, of Running Strong coaching. "Increase mileage by five to 10 per cent weekly, noting any fatigue, aches or difficulty sleeping. Ignoring problems could take you out for weeks."

The Sign: All you do is eat, sleep, run and obsess
The Solution: "Intense competitiveness can backfire and make running stressful, not enjoyable," says sports psychologist Jennifer Carter. List what you love about running, then list all your other important commitments. Make time for each one. This keeps running in perspective; and if you have a bad race, it won't feel like the end of the world.

The Sign: You abandon your race plan to pick off random rivals around you
The Solution: Focusing on the pack won't lead to better performance," says Kim  Ingleby (energisedperformance.com). Instead, it's highly likely that it will jeopardise your goal. "Run your own best race and devise a mantra to repeat, like 'Start slowly, finish  strong'." Aim for even splits and whatever you do, don't worry about others.

Competitive Slacker

The Sign: You perform better in training runs than races
The Solution: It's possible that you feel insecure under the race-day spotlight, says Taylor. To boost your confidence, remind yourself of all your past running highs. Ask a running buddy to go through them - hearing it from someone else is always more convincing.

The Sign: Your running routine is too...routine
The Solution: Mix things up by adding a speed session or varying your route. "Moving outside your comfort zone to gain speed and stamina increases motivation and confidence, making running fun again," says Hamilton.

The Sign:
You avoid challenges such as races
The Solution: "Some runners shy away from competitive situations because they fear failure," says Taylor. Ease in with achievable goals, like finishing your first half-marathon. In  time, you'll gain enough confidence to set larger goals.


Check Yourself

Revving to go or stalled at the start? Find out by adding or subtracting points for each statement below:

1. I'm disappointed after a race if a rival beats me, even if I set a PB. [+1]

2. I never set any training or racing goals for myself. [-1]

3. I like to set myself goals and watch my performances improve. [0]

4. On group runs, I find myself pushing the pace, even on easy days. [+1]

5. I never wear a watch when I go out for a run - or even on race day. [-1]

6. Doing my best means more to me than beating others. [0]

7. I'd rather run through an injury than take an extra day or two off. [+1]

8. I feel good after a race if I gave it my best, no matter where I place. [0]

9. I only train with newbie runners because it's easy for me to socialise. [-1]

10. I train with newbie runners so that I'm always the fastest. [+1]

Add up your scores...
2 or more:  Very competitive. Back off occasionally to avoid injury and alienating your mates.
-1 to 1:  Perfectly competitive. You push yourself for your own satisfaction.
-2 or less: Hardly competitive. It's OK to run for fun, but set some goals in case you fall into a rut.