Win or Lose, Competition Makes You Better — From Couch to 42.2KMs

Taken From My First-Ever Marathon

When i was at the age of 9, I remember walking to a nearby football pitch with my parents to go exercise every Tuesday. Nothing extreme: just completing laps around the football pitch. I looked forward to these sessions because (1) I got to spend quality time with my parents and (2) that is where I could develop my sense of competition, with my strongest desire to run faster than my dad. Laughable I know, but I I had a strong conviction to run fast, or more specifically, to run faster than my dad. He represented the benchmark in what I admired about running. He was fast, and had a strong, upright posture. To me, he was like any other olympic athlete we admire today. At that tender age of 9, I must be honest: I was never able to outrun my dad.

However, those shared moments with my dad created an itch i could never scratch in terms of my interest in running. I was never the fastest throughout high school or college. I didn’t participate in any kind of athletics. Furthermore, running just represented an escape during my high school and college years from the stresses and anxieties of tests and exams. Back then, I didn’t care about the distance but I knew that a breath of fresh air and new scenery would make me feel better a few days before tests and exams.

So, what changed? How did I go from 11 years of occasional running, averaging less than 5 kilometers in a week to now completing half marathons for fun over weekends? How did I “suddenly” find the stamina to run longer and go further?

Lesson 1: You are the company you keep.

In 2019, I started to pay closer attention to my brothers’ running. He is an avid runner, and completes marathons for fun. I would ask him ‘why do you put yourself through that?’, or exclaim ‘I could never run that long’. With those sentiments in mind, it’s easy to see why I never went for a run with hime at the time. However, he was both patient and persistent to get me into running. So, from the 15th of January 2021, he has been my coach and steered me from doing my first 42km marathon in 4h 14min. I became the company I kept and became highly motivated as a result.

Running Circle. Top Left: Me(left) and my Brother(right).

Lesson 2: Competition is my everyday fuel

I know a lot of times we like to ‘focus on ourselves’ and I understand the sentiment behind that phrase. However, just like I wanted to be faster than my dad growing up, I wanted to be quicker than my brother as we started running together. He became my benchmark and standard for success in my running. In 2020, I ran alone and ran a total distance of 448.1KMs. In 2021, the year I started running with my brother, I did 1 430KMs. In the first 3 months of 2022, I’ve already completed over 450KMs. Gianni Versace, a fashion designer, businessman and more popularly known as the founder of Versace once said “It is nice to have valid competition: it pushes you to do better”.

Lesson 3 — Enlarge Your Running Circle

There’s an Afriacn proverb that says ‘if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’. The message of this phrase is to encourage you to build a network of people around you who will motivate, guide and keep you accountable to the fitness goals you set. These can be family, like my dad and brother for me. Or, it can be other runners around your area or online. Feel free to connect with me on Instagram, Twitter or Strava. I’ll leave the details below. Even better, follow my profile to stay up-to-date with my upcoming articles.

I’ve grown to be where I am from not only through the experiences of friends and family but also the experience of others through books. I encourage you to let your mind be inspired by the power of stories through getAbstract. They provide book summaries to your next favourite books. Visit them by clicking here to make better decisions in your day to day life from other people’s experiences!


  1. Strava:
  2. Instagram:

Never stop asking questions like “what if”, “what about” and “how might I”! I strive to improve my curiosity in mundane and complex day to day problems.

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Sontaga Maluleke

Sontaga Maluleke

Never stop asking questions like “what if”, “what about” and “how might I”! I strive to improve my curiosity in mundane and complex day to day problems.

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