Why A 2nd Place Trophy Isn't Bad

I’m not a fan of handing out 8th place trophies. I feel like it takes away from the competitive spirit of sport, or whatever competition is at hand. So instead, let’s focus on the traditional 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place hierarchy of standings. Particularly, let’s focus on the middleman, the 2nd place contestant, the proverbial runner-up.


Just a side note before we get into this: Competition can come in many forms such as sports, business, and anywhere else where standings display a clear distinction between participant rankings. Those who are super competitive hate to finish in 2nd place. They view it as being the first loser. I think that there should be some level of pride in a 2nd place finish, regardless of whatever the competition might be. So why is finishing in 2nd place not as bad as most people make it out to be?


First, finishing in 2nd place gives a clear goal for the next competition. That goal being to finish 1st next time. It shows that there’s room for improvement (as there always should be). It takes away any sense of cockiness and forces the participant to look deep within themselves to find out what they can improve on for next time. This is the type of thinking that should always occur, regardless of where you place. We should always be looking for additional ways to improve our fitness, knowledge, skills, and capabilities.


Second, finishing in 2nd place shows that if improvement isn’t sought, then it may not turn out as well next time. The future might mean 3rd place, or not even placing at all if you don’t continually work to improve. I feel that 2nd place is the perfect reference point for life. Yes, you have achieved a great amount, beating out the vast majority of the participants. But there are always ways to become faster, stronger, and more skilled.


As I write this I’m reminded of my first 50k run last year. I finished in 2nd, that is, 2nd from the bottom. I didn’t follow my training plan as closely as I needed to, and it showed when my hamstrings started cramping with 10 miles to go. Being competitive by nature, there’s no way I can sit on that 2nd from last finish and be content with myself. As such, I’ll be redoing the race again this year. There’s always room for improvement.


Jon Griffith specializes in optimizing performance for firefighters & police. Jon is a personal trainer, firefighter, and former U.S. Army infantryman. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and 3 cats.

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