In the mid-1990s on a Thursday club night, John and I were coming off the last 200m bend of the athletics track in Colchester as part of a 5000m session.  We had taken it in turns to lead over the first 12 laps to help each other with the pace, and to shield each other from the wind, but now all bets were off and both of us were determined to get under 16 minutes for the first time. (A goal for many 5000m club runners)   It was hard to separate us as we ran shoulder to shoulder over the last 100m running faster and faster, but I edged just in front on the finish line.  It didn’t matter to me that I had beaten John, but it meant everything that we had both got under 16 minutes.  I was therefore surprised when another runner said to me afterwards “you are so competitive”.  I had not thought of myself in those terms before, only as someone who wants to get the very best out of my limited talents.

So am I actually competitive?  After someone highlighting my competitiveness I spent some time reflecting on being competitive and what it means to me.  I suppose I am, but with a Social Conscience.  I want to be the very best I can be, not just for the odd race but in all aspects of my life and with a social conscious too, which means helping someone else up at the same time

With two ‘work’ careers and a running career, I want to share with you my ideas on being competitive and having a competitive edge in your life which doesn’t mean ‘I win and you must lose’.  It means we both come out as winners

Getting then keeping a Competitive Edge

  1. If you want to have a competitive advantage for you, your team & organisation, do something different!
  2. A competitive advantage means you can’t just be a little better than they are – you have to do something different to them which gives you the edge
  3. A competitive mind-set means you never get complacent. As far as I am concerned my achievements are behind me and my best days are ahead
  4. Look at yourself in the mirror every night and ask yourself if you did your best.
  5. The ‘aggregation of marginal gains’ – look at every aspect of your life and work and challenge yourself to improve by 1 – 5% (I do this at the start of every year)
  6. You must have a ‘can do’ attitude
  7. You build a reputation and image as a person who gets stuff done
  8. Ask yourself every day what is slowing you down and what is stopping you?
  9. Most importantly you need to decide what you want to compete with

Getting Competitive with a Social Conscience

  1. When someone needs your help and support make sure you are the first to take a step forward
  2. Within our team at we are all competitive. We want to be our very best and do our very best for the people we support with learning disabilities
  3. When our parent organisation needs support with a project or an initiative, we are competitive and want them to come to us first because we want to be the ones to make a difference
  4. You have a default position that no matter how busy or under pressure you are you are there for those who need you.
  5. You share your knowledge, experience and talents with those who are just starting out so you leave a legacy.

Wisdom from Coach John Woodham

During one of my journeys I listened to a Success ( CD about Coach John Woodham an NBA Coach for 40 years which encouraged me to read his story in the Success magazine, I recommend the magazine to you.  I have included 10 “pearls of wisdom’ from Coach Woodham which I think illustrates what being competitive is for me:

  1. Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished but by what you should have accomplished with your ability
  2. Never mistake activity for achievement
  3. Just try to be the best you can be; never cease trying to be the best you can be. That’s in your power
  4. The best competition I have is against myself to become better
  5. Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do
  6. Winning takes talent; to repeat takes character
  7. Players with fight never lose a game; they just run out of time
  8. Never try to be better than someone else. Learn from others, and try to be the best you can be.  Success is the by-product of that preparation
  9. Nothing will work unless you do
  10. If you’re not making mistakes then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.


A couple of weeks later after our 5000m race we were running again this time in the Essex County Half Marathon Championships and, you guessed it, John beat me this time.  It didn’t matter to me as I achieved a new Personal Best (PB) for the Half Marathon and helped John to achieve his through pacing each other again.  We shook hands at the end of the race and congratulated each other on achieving our accomplishments.


“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors.  Try to be better than yourself

William Faulkner