The Comparison Game

I wonder how Moses Mosop feels right now. You see, just this past Monday, Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai won the Boston Marathon in 2 hours, 3 minutes, 2 seconds — the fastest anyone has ever run the 26.2 mile distance. Moses Mosop finished 4 seconds behind him.

Mutai strides ahead of Mosop as they approach the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston Monday, April 18, 2011. / AP Photo / Elise Amendola

The performances of these men were just astonishing. Can you imagine running 26.2 miles at 4:45 pace? How about the fact that they ran mile 25 in 4:25!

Reading the press deluge following the event, hardly any mention of Mosop appeared. At most his performance was alluded to in the form of “Mutai won by 4 seconds”. Even then his name wasn’t often mentioned. Despite his superhuman performance does Moses feel inadequate for not having won? I suppose he is the only one who knows.

Everyone makes comparisons. It’s how we get along in the world. I compare myself with others and therefore know that I am unique. We can take the comparison game too far and make it a game of one-upsmanship or excessive competition. If we come in 2nd place out of 1,000 competitors, we feel bad for not being first instead of proud for having bested 998.

I was reading an article about a man who finished a grueling 100 mile trail ultra marathon race. One would expect him to to proud of having achieved such a spectacular thing. Instead, he was upset and almost ashamed for it having taking him almost 30 hours to complete the event, instead of the “sub 24 hour” mark that is deemed noteworthy for many 100 mile courses. He missed out on getting a special belt-buckle prize for finishing in under 24 hours, and as a result spoke of his achievement in a few poor light.

I see the same thing with many Ironman triathletes. Instead of being proud of their achievements they are too often upset at having not done better than they did! Not qualifying for Kona. Not placing in their age group. Not setting a PR. Not beating their friends who were also racing 🙂 .

It’s too bad. I think the whole point of trying great things is to enjoy the journey and the result, regardless of the outcome.

When comparisons with your own wacky expectations or with how someone else performs prevents you from enjoying your experience – you know something is up!

One thought on “The Comparison Game”

  1. Thank you, Ravi, for this wonderful post. Those are amazing and inspiring speeds and achievements. I like that you speak of comparisons. It makes me think how even the most amazing achievements can be construed as disappointments and failures when the goals are held onto too tightly and when a sense of fulfillment is based too strongly on outside comparisons.

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