Make Frenemies and Run Faster

My first big breakthrough race of my early running career was when I won my first cross country meet sophomore year towards the end of the season. However, the next two races I was beaten by the same kid from a local rival school. I was so frustrated that I had been so close to a three race winning streak, that when I saw his familiar uniform and stride in front of me at the Conference Championships, I surged so hard and passed so many other runners that I nearly won the whole championship. Seeing a familiar rival without a doubt inspired me to a better performance.

Gavin Kilduff, an associate professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, confirmed that rivals help us race faster by nearly 5 seconds per kilometer, in a study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science. Once we're out of school, however, us non-professional runners may have a hard time finding rivals. One option is to notice who finishes near you in races in your age group. Introduce yourself after a race, and you'll be able to better remember and recognize them the next time you see them in a race. A rival/enemy in the race course could even become a longtime friend and training partner.

You can also set up a free account at which not only tracks your race results, but matches you up with closest rivals.

Do you have a rival who inspires you to race better?

Tony has been a runner for over three decades, competing in cross country and track in high school and college, and road races for various clubs. He's served as team captain for several Corporate Challenge teams at YMCA of the USA, and has informally coached many friends over the years.

Tags: This Week in Runners, Y, YMCA, Running, rivals

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