As my mother used to say consolingly (usually on Sports Day): "Well, somebody has to come last, dear". A comment that normally elicited the response "Yes, but why does it have to be me?"
As far as I am concerned, one of the best things about adulthood is that nobody has the power to sign you up for the 400m against your specific wishes!
So I am somewhat amazed that my eldest daughter has put herself forward for Race Week at the sailing club and, having come in the various races so far, seventh out of nine, sixth out of ten and a resounding last (capsized in mud to boot), she is still smiling and is apparently still enjoying herself.
It's not a lack of competitiveness; she's sailing to win – if she can, but the secret of her smiles seems to be that she is honestly enjoying herself out on the water. If she makes the best use of the wind and the tides she's doubly pleased and if she manages to pass a few boats and not come last she's totally satisfied. And she's delighted that she's learning all the time.
So I think I'll try to learn from her. Very often my competiveness gets in the way of actually enjoying what's going on – or if I find, after completing something, that someone else has done far better, then that enjoyment is marred.
I don't think I'd want to be without the competiveness gene, and I wouldn't want my children to be without it either, but it's good to see how it can be kept in its place, so it motivates us to do our best, without getting in the way of honest enjoyment and pleasure in the activity itself. It's also great if we can be truly delighted for the person or team who has won.
So to whomever it was who said: "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser" I would return "But I'd rather be happy with having done the best I can". We can't all be winners, but we can all avoid being sore losers.
I'm still not taking up running though.