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Illustration by Wade Mickley

52% Yes

I love the outdoors, but almost every outdoor activity that my local outdoors club offers is above my skill level. I would love to learn how to do all of these activities, but you won’t see me at an advanced event. I am not competitive by nature—competition actually stresses me out—and I want to do outdoor sports to relieve stress.
—Catherine, via e-mail

Wherever people go, competition follows. It is not just about keeping up with the Joneses, but also to beat them as well.
—Dave Tereba, via e-mail

I find the scenes surrounding certain outdoor sports tend to be less than welcoming. I am new to mountain biking and I’ve found that more experienced riders on trails near my house act frustrated when I am going too slow or getting in their way. I’ve even asked for advice in the parking lot a few times and have been shunned. Outdoor athletes should be encouraging when other people take up their sport—not annoyed that another novice is in the pack.
—Ray Wilkes, Charlotte, N.C.

Too many people are out there chasing speed records or seeing how far they can push their bodies. I prefer the distinction of being the slowest person on the trail so I’m able to take in the surrounding mountain beauty. It’s certainly impressive when athletes can defy conventional physical limits, but I just don’t see the point of rushing through a chance to experience some solitude in nature.
—Jake Silver, Leesburg, Va.

48% No

I find that a little healthy competition motivates me to get outside more often. I typically split my time between mountain biking and climbing, and when I have to decide between them on a certain day, I assess who I would be going with. If I have a chance to try and keep up with someone who’s a real badass, that makes me decide on the crag or the trail.
—Mick Davison, Atlanta, Ga.

Competition is never a bad thing. Competition occurs in nature every day, all day. It’s human nature to be competitive as well. Especially as Americans, we’re always out to be the first, best, fastest, biggest. It’s what makes us great.
—Joe McAlister, Greer, S.C.

The more races and competitions there are, the more all of us will be encouraged to get on our feet and get out there and move.
—Barb Townsend, via e-mail

Name the hobby, and you will find people who pursue it for the love of it. And you will find among those who love it those who also love competition. There is plenty of room for the casual, the dilettante, and the competitor in outdoor pursuits. Man against man. Man against nature. Man against technology. Man against himself. Man against God. These are the themes that bring excitement and drama to our narrative. Such has it always been, such will it always be. To think otherwise is to piss in the wind.
—Gerald Hutchinson, via e-mail