Finding My Competitive Spirit Again

Emily S. Goncalves, MD, MBA

Disclosures

June 21, 2021

Going through medical school and residency tends to foster a competitive spirit even if you don’t mean to be competitive. I enjoy friendly competition, but I am at my best working with a team rather than against people. I find that running nurtures both a team environment and a competitive spirit in the best way possible.

After a week of being on call, I traveled to NYC for my first race since the pandemic hit. I was worn down and nervous, especially since I have also recovered from shoulder surgery this year. I briefly thought about canceling my race due to the fatigue and stress of residency but decided it would be a fun trip since I was previously part of a running group in New York and have not seen my old teammates since early 2020.

I arrived in NYC around 10 p.m. and tried to get some sleep for my 7 a.m. race. I tossed and turned, worried about my tumultuous week at work. When I got to the race, I was greeted by former teammates and found a surge of energy. I warmed up and felt grateful to be a member of the running community. Everyone was excited for one of the first in-person races in over a year and the energy was infectious.

I had a race strategy in mind but had no idea if I would be able to execute my race plan. I lined up to the starting line in the back of the corral and began to feel really nervous. I had doubts and told myself I might need to forget the race plan and go into the race more conservatively than I hoped. When I crossed the start line, I felt a little more relaxed and settled into a sub 7-minute mile pace (sub 7-minute mile pace is running less than 7-minute miles for over 6 miles, also equivalent to 8.5 mph). This was quicker than I anticipated, and I slowed myself down, knowing I had a slew of hills ahead of me in Central Park. I was surprised to find how relaxed I felt at this pace but questioned my endurance.

The second mile went smoothly for me and I knocked off a sub 7-minute mile. As I entered Harlem, the hills were never ending, and my pace naturally slowed. I told myself not to panic, and that I could make up the times on the downhills. The third mile was 25 seconds slower than I hoped, but I rebounded at mile 4. The pace started to feel a little more challenging at this point, but I told myself I had less than 20 minutes of running hard...this would be like a tempo workout, which I do all the time.

The hills continued in mile 5 but I was able to catch my breath and take advantage of the downhills. With a mile to go, I figured I was on pace to break my best time. I tried to pick up my pace, and my confidence grew as I was passing people. With 800 meters to go, I didn’t hold back and crossed the finish line in my best time ever. I was stunned.

Throughout the course, I was cheered on by former teammates, friends, and coaches. This sense of community was an amazing feeling. I think sometimes as a resident we lack this sense of community because of the competitive atmosphere. However, I believe we can treat residency like the running community and cheer each other on as we work toward our goals of becoming the best physician possible. My energy is high after I come off this race and I am looking forward to my next week of work and marathon training.

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About Dr Emily Goncalves
Emily S. Goncalves, MD, MBA, is a psychiatry resident at Delaware Psychiatric Center in New Castle. She is a competitive runner and ran for Syracuse University. She continues to live an active lifestyle and has competed in eight marathons, including the Boston Marathon. Emily hopes to share her passion for running with her patients and is interested in pursuing a career in consultation and liaison psychiatry. She also enjoys writing about her running adventures.

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