Today I had the most pleasant fortune of doing my cool down with the two most handsome, most congenial, most intellectual men to ever grace this planet earth…MATT MOODY and BLAKE ROBERSON, who did nothing but BITCH AND MOAN ABOUT HOW THEY NEVER GET WRITTEN ABOUT IN MY BLOG! So there ya go guys! Your two minutes of fame!!! I kid guys, I kid.
So I’ve written about this topic in a past blog, but I’ve had enough relative experiences to suffice for another decent posting, regardless, I apologize to those that feel a sense of de-ja-vu while reading.
As an anarchist, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time submerged in a culture that tends to shun the notion of competition from both a political and social perspective. Rightfully so, for in a world of haves and have-nots, competition is wielded as some sort of economic justification for stepping on those beneath you to get to those above. Apparently, this sort of competition is going to balance everything out and we’ll all be living in a utopia of equality…or something. Whatever.
But furthermore, anarchists tend to extend this hatred of competition to any social relation that pits one person against another. Erring on the side of caution, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes elements of competition that can act as bonds of social relations instead of divisions get sucked into the political vaccum…sports being one of them. Now, as most anarchists tend to come from a framework of social alienation, there is often an ingrained resistance to dominant culture and anything it holds dear…such as sports culture. There is, of course, worth to this perspective as well. I’ll admit, I reactively rejected sports culture for a long time too, and in general still find the passion with which people put into it mostly misplaced, but I can also understand the value people find in it as well. The camraderie, the sense of purpose, the permitted social abandon.
I think moreso I reject the mediation of the competition. I find much more value in individuals willingly pitting themselves against others in a participatory fashion instead of just screaming for others to do it for them. Sometimes the competitive fervor boils over and even those fans can’t keep from the action, such as football hooligans, who engage in more organized competition with opposing football hooligans than even the players on the field do with each other. If it wasn’t so mindlessly violent, I’d try to find worth in that as well.
However, I’ve come to realize that the dynamics of competition are actually quite deceptive and I can now appreciate its subtle values instead of wholesale rejecting it. Competition, though the definition seems to deny it, can actually be fundamentally cooperative. I can’t immediately come up with a better example than running.
When I run, it is for myself….always. Undeniably, I am aware of the other runners at my level and at times race “against” them, but always with the intention of bettering my own standings as a runner and not to crush their spirit. Of all my races, I’ve only run directly against others a handful of times, but never in a way that I compromised my own abilities simply to be in the position to take them at some point in the race. I ALWAYS run at what I gauge as my highest capacity and simply let my performance sort out my time and placement within any other number of runners. Yes, I’ll try and outkick others at the end of the race, but only because I always kick like mad at the end of a race. It is forever about lowering my own times and any seeming competition is secondary.
Then there are the directly supportive elements of competition. When I race against others, it’s more accurate to say I’m racing WITH them. They act as a lifeline, pulling me to seemingly unattainable paces that I could never have mustered on my own and at times I do the same for others. Running is always about individual achievement..well, for me anyways. For example, when I passed Little in the last 10k run I entered, I had the opportunity to say any number of things. I could have said, “Little, what the hell is a matter with you?” or “Little, if you ran as much as you talked you might be ahead of me right now!” (I kid, Little!) but instead I told him “Roll with me.” It didn’t matter so much if I placed ahead of him or not…what mattered was that I was able to keep running at a redline pace. It didn’t matter if he was ahead of me or behind me, just so long as I didn’t back off from myself. Runners don’t flaunt our wins over other runners. We don’t perform endzone dances or talk smack (well, most of us don’t) to other runners. Actually, we hold immense respect for each other and offer encouragement no matter our results. We certainly DO compete against each other, but in a way that is deeply supportive and cooperative. Are there exceptions? Of course. No one is perfect.
Not even anarchists. For instance, there was a recent gathering of anarchists that tend to rally under a fairly non-descript banner of specific lifestyle choices (they tend to be described by others as “crimethinc’ers”). However, another sect of anarchists (Anarchist People Of Color) who rally around a platform of anti-racist domination (specifically white supremacy) took issue with the crimethinc convergence for their part in considering other issues instead of solely addressing white supremacy in all its forms. Long story short, the crimethinc gathering was physically raided by these APOC individuals and the white anarchists were essentially removed from the premises, sometimes physically. So much for cooperation and the rejection of competition right? The anarchist scene has become more competitive than a soccer riot.
I stepped away from that manner of involvement just in time…and replaced it with an activity that most anarchists see as an expression of dominant values – hypermasculinity, cut-throat competition, misplaced passion. But for some reason, I find more joy, social bonding, support, and cooperation within the running scene than I have most other places, including the oh-so-aware, politically self-righteous anarchist community. Ultimately, it shouldn’t be surprising. This is simply humanity, acting within a specific competitive yet cooperative social context. Undominated by the auspices of power and force, but rather simply a physical outpouring of individual potential.
Then sometimes the perspective gets smeared like bugs on a windshield…and it can get ugly.
On Tuesday’s runs (oh yes, I’m going here…did you think I was kidding today?) there has developed a sort of rivalry between Little and Davis, two of the fastest runners in the group. Davis is stupidly fast, which I learned about directly during our strides we did at the end of our run today. Little is also incredibly fast, but on a more sustained endurance level. During our workouts Little tends to put in little surges to keep ahead at mile markers or during mile splits…which drives Davis crazy. I think it’s kinda funny. Little is also known for running out at extremely fast start paces and missing the projected times later on down the run, sometimes getting caught by the pack behind him as he blows up from over effort. Personally, I respect this perspective, even if it might be a little foolhardy, but it drives Davis absolutely nuts! I think Little enjoys “winning” workouts and half-seriously makes mention of this after our runs, which tends to set off Davis who might be a touch insecure about his abilities instead of just accepting his ability to run the workout spot on and progress himself individually. He simply can’t take it when Little seemingly discredits his effort during workouts. I, and some of the others, usually just hang back and laugh to each other as these arguments work themselves out for the following 2 or 3 miles. Today though, I don’t know if it was the intensity of the workout or just an accumulation of these exchanges, but things started to get really ugly and tempers flared a bit. I think ultimately it was all under control, but less cooler heads might have come to blows during the escalation. Again, the rest of us just kind of laughed to ourselves and I made mention that this was perfect as I was running out of ideas for my blog.
So it’s not always roses, but in everything it always comes down to a matter of perspective and what you want to get out of your experience individually. Personally, I’m done finding competitions. I’m done picking fights, unless those fights come to me. I mean, I still want to compete, but in a way that is with others and not against them, that is supportive, that is cooperative, and that brings us to greater levels of achievement instead of knocking us down to lower ones. All you petty in-fighting anarchists can have your strawman battles and all you capitalists can keep your bloodthirsty one-upmanship…..I’ll stick with everyone else that gains inspiration from me and pulls me to new PR’s all the same.
4 miles warmup
5 mile “predator” run (5:30 – 5:12? – 5:10 – 5:00 – 5:05) – missed that last one pretty bad
3 mile cool down
8 100 meter strides all out
Breakfast – Grape nuts w/ soymilk, coffee
Lunch – Pasta w/ peanut sauce and brocolli, water
Dinner – Veggie Dumplings
Snacks – Fruit cup, water, coffee, soymilk, Odwalla protein smoothie, banana, Chicago Diner cookie and coconut bar
A Perfect Murder – Unbroken
Propaghandi – Supporting Caste