I know, they say that the real rival to beat is not the one who dared to take over you in training or during the race. It is said that the real rival you have to confront lies inside your head and is yourself. Have you ever really thought about what this rival might look like?
Your rival, in other words, must resemble or be something concrete and not an idea.
In the beginning
The opponent to overcome is your past self: the one who did not conceive any physical activity except when it did not concern him, the one who watched sports only on TV, the one annihilated by a stair.
Then you started running and what seemed physically impossible months earlier became normal: walking fast without being crashed by fatigue, no longer using the elevator, considering the car something you can safely avoid.
If you think about it though, this is an opponent that you started to distance yourself from as soon as you started to change your habits. If you had never run or played sports before, the change in your life was radical and evident. You have already beaten that opponent, a long time ago.
That’s why, if you maintained consistency in training and dedication to practice, you then needed to find a different, more challenging one. It is still a rival, isn’t it?
The opponent that keeps you going
Everyone knows this: when you changed habits and you embraced sports, for example, from sedentariness, the most difficult effort to manage was to keep doing it. It is very true that the first step is the most strenuous, but that does not mean that those that come after are still easy.
It is at this stage that, in order to find an opponent, you also looked outside of yourself: at races, at challenges that consist of measuring yourself against others. Those who run with you or those you have decided to challenge in the race are a kind of substitute for your self, and it is no coincidence that a component of the motivation to prepare for a race is not only to improve themselves but also to compete healthily with others on the common ground of a race.
At this stage your opponent takes the form of other people: they are real, some you know, some you meet on the starting line.
They are not the only opponents you will encounter. You will have others inside and they will be your doubtful self, the lazy one, the pessimistic one, the one that “nothing ever changes anyway, you will be again the one who not wanting to struggle, it’s just a matter of time.”
Motivating yourself means not only convincing yourself to do something but also, most importantly, not giving in to the ghosts of the past, to the many forms your self once had. The change has already happened, and now you are nurturing it to continue and be more and more positively overwhelming.
Your opponent is your best ally
The more time passes, the more races and challenges you have accumulated, the more your relationship with your inner opponent matures. You have challenged each other for a long time, and if you have come this far, you have already overcome many obstacles and won many races, even the inner ones, the ones without a cup except the symbolic one seen only by you.
If you pay attention to it (and if you are already at this point), if you keep running, it is because you have passed the challenge stage and have matured a different relationship with your inner opponent. He is always an antagonist who challenges you but by now you recognize him as a friend who, instead of trying to wear you down by making you falter, pushes you to be your best through perseverance. It is no longer just about improving times or trying increasingly grueling workouts. In the long run, the big challenge is to keep doing it. Consistency is an achievement, and it does not hand you a medal but only gives you a great, immense awareness.
Now look to your side: there is always him, your eternal opponent. He has the appearance you have given him in your mind: he is thinner than you, he is faster than you, he is more determined than you.
Yet he no longer challenges you as he once did, or you no longer see him in a hostile way.
If you have come this far, it is because of your determination but also because of him or her. He has been in your head all this time but also, deep down, by your side. You saw it reflected in the mirror and sometimes you didn’t want to be him or her (the one you were in the past), sometimes you just wanted to beat the one who seemed stronger and challenged you.
Eventually you realized that it was because of him or her that you had made it. You made peace with your opponent and suddenly realized that it was because of him or her-and not in spite of him or her-that you had made it.
That’s when you took that rival by the hand – the one you no longer wanted to be or a version of you you never thought you would be – and ran with him. Because that opponent, in the end, was and is your best friend. And only the two of you know it.