I was reading Vince Hemingson’s take over at Boston or Bust about running competitively with a group and how that is not really a good thing.

This particular sin is that of judging your performance and measuring your progress and success against the people you run with. It is a fool’s game. It is a shame in part because so few of us are ever going to mount the podium at a marathon. It is also a shame because if you are competing with the people you run with on a regular basis, it has the faintest whiff of fratricide about it.

I agree with what he is saying while completely disagreeing with it. Vince’s take is that the people you run with are an important part of your social circle, and racing with them constantly can be damaging to your friendships and to your self esteem. He is not talking about racing them at your town’s local 5k, he means treating every training run as a race.

From my own experiences, competitive training is a lot of fun. The trick is finding people at your level that you can be competitive with. The best person to train with is somebody that is just a little bit better than yourself, in my opinion. You also need to understand the goals of a workout. If you are doing intervals, being competitive can be a good thing. If you are doing a short recovery run, then it would be silly to try to beat somebody home. Not that that hasn’t been done before.

My friend John Tomac had the best analogy when we were running for the Rochester Institute of Technology. He maintained that every race was a battle in World War II. You are the American, and the other teams are the Germans and the Japanese. Your teammates are the Russians. You rely upon your teammates and you work with them, but you can never really trust them and have to keep your eye on them to make sure you do not get caught napping.

Running and training with a group of people is great, and poisoning your relationships by being competitive in training is a quick way to ruin a good thing. A healthy competition, though, can keep you on your toes and help to force you into making strides you just wouldn’t be able to achieve on your own.