Why do I lose?
…it’s not a question to which most athletes search for an answer, but it is an answer that one athlete (me) found in a dream in the middle of one autumn night.
From the age of 6 I have taken part in competitive sports, more or less in chronological order it goes swimming (both in the pool and open water), water polo, kayaking, rowing, ping pong (yes…ping pong), offshore sailing, canoe polo, squash, running (various distances from 400m to the marathon) although that didn’t last long (a sport contra-indicated for athletes with knees), triathlon, different types of cycling : racing, mountain bike, time trial.
I have lost doing all of these sports.
Today, on the threshold of the second circuit of the 20 year buoy (a mental technique learnt from swimming in open water when taking on distances that made me anxious), with at least three permanent annoyances in terms of aches and pains that never leave me, I continue to play tetris with my life trying to slot in training, family, work…
It is valid at this point to ask yourself…why?
Over the years I have given friends, relatives, colleagues, even myself, various answers along the lines of:
“It helps me manage stress”…true…but I could also start smoking or do yoga like sane people tend to do, you can’t sustain for long the argument “today I’m doing a 113km race because I’m feeling tense.”
“because I need it to maintain my equilibrium after so many years of sport”…true…after two weeks of not doing sport I sleep badly, I lose my appetite, I start to say things that don’t make much sense, I rediscover the car’s horn etc…
But it was sport that taught me that the human machine, with discipline and the right approach, adapts to even the inconceivable, and so that must include lazing around.
The real motivation is “Because I lose!”
To tell the truth I haven’t always lost (it would also be statistically improbable given the number of times that I’ve found myself at the starting line of one event or another) but definitely nowadays I don’t run to win, or only to win.
I run because, in losing, I learn about myself from an emotional perspective, because losing aged 40 is completely different to losing at 12 years old, or even at 20. Losing a race in a “protected” situation (where with a heavy heart you miss out on the winning prize of a salami and a packet of pasta) is like a gym workout for the mind, a sort of vaccination with a weak version of a virus, a lesson that helps you when you lose in life…which happens sometimes, even for no reason, and you can’t do anything about it.