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Playing to win, or playing not to lose?

Great North Run No

The other day I came across this quote –

“For the past three years, I have been playing not to lose. After yesterday, now I am playing to win”.

It can from another excellent post by Peter Bromka. It was a text from his Dad to him before the Chicago marathon.

His Dad had heart surgery three years ago, and the day before the marathon he had been taken back into hospital for further surgery.

Quotes are all well and good. Judging by how often they inspire a blog post from me, I guess I like them. But reading them, feeling a twinge of inspirational and then doing nothing about it is futile. The inspiration and thinking are easy. Taking action is the hard part.

Playing not to lose

The quote really resonates with me. It may resonate with you too.

The quote “playing not to lose” can refer to many different parts of our lives. Work, family, relationships, health, friendships. You’re living your life, kind of going through the motions, but  not really winning so much.

  • Are you playing it safe?
  • Are you in a comfortable situation?
  • Is the thought of moving, onwards, upwards, forwards scary?
  • Are you afraid of failure?
  • Are you afraid of success?

It could be some or all of the above.

If we focus on health and well-being, what could “playing not to lose” mean?

Food – the clean, healthy eating plan gets hijacked by after works drinks and a McDonalds on the train on Thursday. The plan then gets binned till Monday morning.

Training – turning up/setting off unprepared and slogging through the session. Not giving it your all. Thinking next time will be different, then doing the same again next week.

Joining a Club/Gym – What if meeting new people is awkward? What if I’m too slow? What if I’m not as fast as I think I am?

Sometimes my eating plan gets thrown out the window due to generous dinner invites, impromptu beers and large Sunday roasts.

I turn up to training dehydrated, stiff from the previous session (because I shirked the recovery) and tired because I went to bed too late.

I still haven’t joined that running club.

We’re all thinking –

“There’s always tomorrow, and I can just do it then”.



I’ve mentioned a couple of times on the blog about improving my running. Sometimes it feels like I’m running with the brakes on. The thing is – I’m the one holding the brakes. I’m not really going for it. I’m not giving myself a real chance to improve. I have a good session or race, then I relax, kick back a bit and let it all go.

I think about improving and dedicating myself to running and training all the time. I’ll think about it at my training session tonight. I’ll say –

“If I really tried and put it all together, I’d be up the front. But hey, at least I’m not at the back. I’ll come ready next weekend and it’ll all be different.”

I’m playing it safe in the middle. Holding steady, running the same times and hoping to chip away at those PBs. In regards to my running, for me, it is part fear of failure and part fear of success. Another quote puts this well

“…I hope I’ll never get ambitious enough to try anything. It’s so much nicer to be damned sure I could do it better than other people- and I might not if I tried. That, of course, would break my heart…”

-Zelda Fitzgerald

That pretty much sums it up. What if I can’t do what I think I can do or want to do? What if that 4-hour marathon is out of reach? It’s safer not to try and just stay with the memories of my previous marathons.

But what if I succeed? Do I have to keep this up for ever? Do I have to go for a 3:30 marathon? What if I let it slip? That will be just as bad and I’ll feel awful. Maybe just the thought of possible success is enough!

I’m hesitant to put my thoughts down here. It’s all a little bit “woe is me”. I’m not saying it for sympathy. If it was anyone else, I’d tell them to make a plan, work hard and go for it. Stop whinging!

I’m trying to highlight that everyone in many aspects of their life, experience times of self-doubt and living up to the expectations of other and themselves.

Running is something I love and really enjoy doing and it still f*cks with my head!

Going for it

Chris Froome T de F

I praise athletes with flair. The ones that do things a differently. I’ve watched the Tour de France for years. The riders who are 2nd and 3rd overall tend just to follow the wheel of the leader in the yellow jersey. I’m always willing those people (following in the wheels) to attack, to take a chance and make a break. Go for the win.

However, there is the risk of taking a chance, putting yourself into the red and potentially blowing up completely. The group then passes you; you lose your 2nd or 3rd place. Sometimes, holding on to the 2nd or 3rd place is a safer bet than risking it and going for the top of the podium.

So where does this ramble take me? I have to stop thinking about improving my running. Stop reading quotes about seizing the day, and then not seizing it. I need to live the athlete’s life and little more and stop playing to lose and start playing to win.

Oh yeah, nearly forgot. I filled in that application form and joined that running club!

Do one small thing and take a step forward!

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