I ran my 16th marathon last Sunday (exactly to my target 4:00:00). Coincidentally I came across this paragraph from J.M. Coetzee:
“Sport teaches us more about losing than about winning, simply because so many of jus don´t win. What it teaches above all is that it is OK to lose. Losing is not the worst thing in the world, because in sports, unlike in war, the loser doesn´t get to have his throat cut by the winner.
Because that is the great lesson of the sport. You lose most of the time, but as long as you stay in the game there will always be a tomorrow, a fresh change to redeem yourself. “
–J.M. Coetzee (Letter to Paul Auster, October 21, 2010)
Although I generally share the sentiment of Coetzee, where I differ is the line “it is OK to lose”. I think what sports teach us that it is never OK to lose, but it is normal to lose. There is a huge difference in that. Practicing sports helps us to deal with setbacks in life in general. It does not matter how many times you have been knocked down, it matters how many times you get up.
Whether it is my recreational running, weightlifting or pick-up basketball, I want to win. Depending on the sports it is against a real opponent, imaginary opponent or just myself, which I guess is a mixture of both. More often than not I´ll lose, but that does not mean the losing is ok. It happens, but you should not tolerate it. It just makes you want to win harder. I have never understood people who just run, or just play and don´t want to win.
If you do not care about losing or winning, you do not care about anything in life.