FOOT NOTES: There is no losing in running


It’s the thrill of victory that draws me in, and the hatred for losing that drives me to become the very best.

I’m not talking about any particular game or sport here, either, just competition in itself.

I don’t care if we’re on the basketball court shooting a game of H-O-R-S-E, or playing for keeps at the poker table, I’m going for the finishing blow.

Pool? Cornhole? Bowling? Sign me up, because I’m in it to win it. 

It’s almost kind of nuts how loud I’ll shriek at myself for committing an unforced error in tennis, or how long I’ll stare at the chess board after taking an ‘L’ from my 9-year-old son. And don’t worry even get me started on Mario Kart unless you’re ready to square up on Rainbow Road.

I crave winning. Can’t stand losing.

But with competitive running, I take loss after loss, yet keep charging forward. In my eight years of running, I’ve compiled a grand total of zero wins.

This statistic isn’t uncommon. I’d say that 90, maybe 95 percent, of any given race field is stocked with runners who have never won before. If you ever want to annoy a runner, just ask them if they won their race.

So what is it about this sport that brings us back to the race paths again and again, even as our losses begin to mount?

I can only speak for myself, but there’s something about the competitive race-day energy that can make even the slowest runners perform a few ticks faster. What seems like a ferocious pace during training can feel almost relaxed when applied during a race. 

As competitive as I am, I’m smart enough to understand that an obese 38-year-old ex-smoker has no shot at the college kids. But that doesn’t mean the competition has to end there.

I’ve realized that whether you’re in the front, middle, or back of the pack, there’s always someone to chase and always someone nipping at your heels. Some of my most pressure-packed racing experiences have come against children, dads pushing triple strollers, and the occasional 60-69 AG runner using me as a springboard to win their age awards. 

In other words, the competition in racing is always present, and naturally pits you against those of a similar skill level. Even though I’m not the one breaking the tape at the finish line, I still take a whole lot of pride in the “race within the race” that fuels my desire to win. It pushes to me activate a second gear I didn’t even know I had. 

There aren’t many feelings better than finishing a race knowing that you put everything you had into it, knowing on this day you showcased to the world (or maybe just a couple of spectators) the best version of your running self. What more can a competitor ask for?

Perhaps that’s the reason why my fire still burns for this sport, even if I go my whole life without “winning” a single thing.


Don’t let the cute name fool you, the Squirrelly Tail Twail Wun Half Marathon is a challenging race often fraught with gnarly course conditions that come from the February rains and snows.

Running along the trails of Gifford Pinchot Lake in Lewisberry, Matthew Smith put together a performance that would shine even in a road race. Smith, from Greencastle, was a Top 25 finisher at Squirrelly Tail with a time of 1:56:10.

Smith was chased by Fayetteville’s Stephanie McBeth (2:26:07) and Morgan Neuburger (2:57:38), as well as Waynesboro’s Katrina Rosencrance (2:26:17).

We take you to Tampa, Fla., where Chambersburg’s Mark and Debbie Grove had a unique race experience at the New York Yankees Sprint to Spring 5K. Racing on George M. Steinbrenner Field, Mark finished in 32:44 and Debbie crossed the finish line in 38:55.

Finally, Smithsburg’s Missy Ryan completed a weekend double at Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend in Orlando, Fla. Ryan completed the 10K race in 1:46:51 and the half marathon in 3:52:18.

And now, a look ahead:

Medal Madness Saint Patrick 5K/10K: Saturday, 8:30 a.m., in New Cumberland. Roof Park will be the backdrop for this event, which features two race distances. Learn more on

Hot Mess 5K: Saturday, 9 a.m., in Grantville. This race at Memorial Lake State Park is proudly brought to you by the Pennsylvania Army National Guard Joint Headquarters Mess. Register for the race on

Jig Jog 5K: Saturday, March 11, 10 a.m., in Carlisle. Runners of all abilities are invited to take on this race, which runs through pavement and stone trails at Stone Ridge Park. Find the race on

Also: Chilly Dog 5K (Saturday, in New Freedom); Naked Bavarian 20M/40M (Saturday, in Leesport); South Park Half Marathon (Saturday, in South Park Township); Northeastern 5K (Sunday, in Manchester); Looney Leprechaun 20K (Saturday, March 11, in Richboro); Medal Madness Saint Patrick Half Marathon (Saturday, March 11, in York); Run4Luck (Saturday, March 11, in Lancaster); Shiver by the River 5K/10K (Sunday, March 12, in Reading); SRG Half Marathon (Sunday, March 12, in Douglasville).

Foot Notes is a self-syndicated column by Central Pa. sportswriter Andy Sandrik that has been “running” since 2016. Andy always follows back on Strava and can be reached by email at [email protected].

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