When my son built our staircase he had no idea that the end post would serve as a convenient place for me to dump my race medals.
Recently I welcomed some guests into my home and the kids asked, "What are all those medals for?" I replied, "Those are all the races I've lost." Which reminds me of a few reasons I like to race:
It is humbling. There will always be people who are faster or smarter or better looking or more accomplished than you. This is no excuse to give it less than your best. It's simply a reminder that we all have our personal strengths and weaknesses. The biggest obstacle we have to overcome is accepting our own limits. As someone who is almost always in the middle or the back of the pack, I have to remind myself not to let my ego get in the way of enjoying a race.
It is motivating. Running with faster people will only make you faster. That's true in all of life. Want to become a better teacher? Hang out with good teachers. We learn best by example and not by watching YouTube videos. I try to tell myself after every race not to be content with the level of fitness I've achieved. We can always improve at what we do. Yes, accept who you are. But always ask, "Am I the best me possible?" Guess this is my way of saying that if we run for the challenge that's usually exactly what we get.
It is personal. I sometimes need to be reminded that people just don't really care how many miles I ran today. In fact, most people don't relate to running and races and triathlons. There is WAY more to life than sports. When I race I remind myself that I run not for medals and awards but because I love doing it. I love life too much to be tied up with all this business about winning.
It gives you a balance between perfectionism and apathy. I love being in the middle of the pack -- fast enough to feel the strength and endurance God has given me, but slow enough to enjoy the race. If I come in dead last in my age group, so be it because I am SLOW. If I finish above last place in my age group I am deliriously happy. In the end, I compete only against myself. If I thought otherwise I would never run another race.
Meanwhile, I try to welcome the humbling moments, as challenging as they may be.