I consider myself a student of life. When college ended, so did the looming term papers, the upcoming tests and endless hours spent studying. I felt a loss – the death of organized learning. It’s not long after that, I discovered I actually liked gaining more knowledge on a variety of topics. When not told what to do and when to do it I found myself eager and excited to learn more about, just about anything.

“I read TIME”….it’s not something you usually say to your girlfriends….

I do read it – In the privacy of my own home I allow myself the self proclaimed geeky pleasure of reading and learning about new things and what is going on the world.

This past week I found a great mini article in TIME on the competition between girls and boys when it comes to athletics. The article doesn’t mention running, but I think it’s a clear cut example of why the sport of running, track & field and cross country included, is a wonderful choice for not only adults but also young children.

A little bit of competitive drive can be a good thing, but a new study of teenagers shows that attempting to outshine others may come at a higher psychological and social price for girls than for boys.

Researchers at California State University at Chico and the University of Texas at Dallas looked at two types of competition among highschool seniors: competing to win and competing to excel. More boys than girls reported competing to win – to dominate rivals and demonstrate superior skill – with no detriment to their mental health or social relationships. The findings support earlier studies that suggest such motivation is both typical and socially expected of males.

But female students who said they competed to win reported higher rates of depression and feelings of loneliness, along with fewer friends and social relationships, compared with girls who did not report the same drive to outperform their peers. The author suggests these effects may be due in part to persistent Western norms that mark self-serving behaviour undesirable in girls.

In contrast, competing to excel – to surpass personal goals or develop skills – was associated with higher self esteem, more feelings of achievement and less depression in both girls and boys.

Running is an awesome way to excel, to better ones self, to win even if you are the last person to finish the race. Running has given me a sense of purpose, a passion, a drive, and has taken me from a socially fearful person, to someone who has the confidence to go almost anywhere and do pretty much anything. I sincerely wish that I had not thought that the kids on track in highschool were dorks per se, but that my parents and society had taught me that running is just as *cool* as soccer, as lacrosse. That running is a sport that continues long after organized sports have ended, running is a sport for life.


  1. The only reason that I would ever want to "redo" high school is so that I could join the cross-country team. I could have been enjoying running for another 10 years if I wouldn't have been such a lazy choir geek.

  2. misszippy says:

    I love what Whitney says…I would love to go back and run x-country now! But as to boys vs. girls–I think it's true. Girls are sent the message that being competitive isn't a cool thing, while boys are revered for their competitive nature. It's time that changes!

  3. RunWithKate says:

    Agreed ladies! I wish I would have joined XC. I think it could have been the best thing for me. As I just mentioned in my blog, I love that finish line glory as I call it. I may not finish first but either way it is personal glory. Every good run is a personal achievement. I love this post :)

  4. Running is great self-esteem booster!

    I call it the fast forward to greater self-esteem :)

  5. Karen the "Hungry Mom" says:

    great great article. we were actually just talking about this last night. I brought Drew to track with me Tuesday and I was so happy that he could see me doing something I loved and how happy it made me to run. He ran two laps around the track before we left and loved it. It was a great experience for him

  6. The Laminator says:

    Very interesting study, D! Thanks for sharing. I see this all the time in my regular interactions with kids that I see. What I have seen is that for girls on athletic teams, at least for those who are ultra-competitive with their peers, there's almost a sense that doing destructive things to gain any advantage is expected of them, leading to eating disorders, depression, isolation, and the like, while for boys, it's common practice and more accepted to be competitive so they don't feel a social pressure to do anything extra. The psychology behind all of this is fascinating!

  7. Jessica says:

    this is my favorite thing about the article: "In contrast, competing to excel – to surpass personal goals or develop skills – was associated with higher self esteem, more feelings of achievement and less depression in both girls and boys" … that is one reason I love running so much as an adult. It is all about growing as a person and seeing improvement in my self. We can see our improvements and celebrate that – and also take great joy in the accomplishments of others! I feel like girls especially are always comparing themselves to others in every area of life – looks, friends, academics, popularity, athletics…the list is never ending. Running is a sport that really shows how hard work and being smart about training pays off – and how we can improve ourselves and attain personal goals. yaaaay for this post!

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