Half my lifetime ago, I was an open-water long-distance swimmer. And every year, a 25km event crosses the biggest lake in the Netherlands. I never was able to see this as a competition. Just getting across was, for me, the goal. Nevertheless, I finished second and twice third in the three times I participated.
I never won
Besides, the competition was world-class, and I did not match that level. I never won. Part of this is that I was not competing. I was completing. If you focus on competing in a race, your approach is different. You are racing against others. If you complete, you are racing yourself. Sometimes you are lucky, and racing yourself is enough to be faster than others, but often, you get what you focus on. And I am still happy with it.
I never lost
Even though the second place is the first loser, it never felt like such. Each finish after 5 or 6 hours felt like a bonus and colossal achievement. Getting a price afterwards was nice, but it was not the reward. The reward was completing what I set up to achieve.
Either way is fine
You do not have to compete and win. You also do not have to settle for completing. It is your choice. Though if you decide to complete, do not be sad you did not win. If you compete and do not win, do not be unhappy. Losing is the majority of the competition since there is only one winner.
Making a choice and giving it the best you have is essential. Since if you provide the best, the result is your best, independent of where your end up. Be happy with the work you did.
When you get interested in this race, the IJsselmeer Swim Marathon is this year on September 11th. And at this moment, I am still #31 of the 179 people who succeeded in crossing the IJsselmeer.