Runners are an interesting bunch. We hail from here and there: cities, rural areas, desert plains even. Some of us love roads, some trails, some obstacle races, some stairs (gasp!). Some of us think running mountains are a challenge; some of us love a fast flat Parkrun or the athletics track. Some of us: run for competition; to PB; for the serenity; for the social aspect; and for the scenery.
As you can see there is no right or wrong way to run. We are all different and as such, the way we run and the pace we do it at is also different. Difference makes us unique. It is important that we focus on our own reasons for running, our own expectations of ourselves, when we reflect on our running, for there is nothing more detrimental to a running journey than comparison.
Comparing yourself to others is a growing trend (aided by the introduction of whiz bang apps and gadgets) that can strip the love of running from right under your feet. Comparison, separates you from your connection to the activity of running, the pleasure of the run. Running becomes unsatisfying because it is contingent on your performance as it stands up to the performance (sometimes false) of others. Don’t get me wrong, some comparison is good, especially if you are using it to fuel your desire to achieve your goals. Just be careful that it doesn’t become an obsession, or that you don’t start telling yourself you’re not a good runner based on artificial comparison to others.
Constantly berating yourself because you don’t seem to be running as well or as fast as other runners can sap you of your self esteem and worse, sap you of your love of running, leaving you wanting to hang up your shoes. So what is it that makes us compare so much more these days?
The introduction of social media into our lives no doubt plays a huge roll. We are INSTANTLY updated with the highs and lows of our running friend’s journeys. All you need to do is look on Instagram, or Facebook, or even Twitter to see that Jo blog: ran on the hardest trail in the world today and your efforts running around the block fail in comparison; or that your friend ran 2 minutes faster on the course you ran yesterday; or that such and such had a fabulous run and doesn’t look like they broke a sweat, and here you are looking like deaths door after yours. Is it healthy to be inundated all the time with all of this information? Well, I’m going to say no. No it isn’t.
It is okay to follow your friends, and it is awesome to see what they are doing on a daily basis through amazing apps like Strava, Facebook and Instagram, but once we start to dwell over the “I am not as good as them” feeling, we are heading down a dangerous road for our own running, and in doing so, we kill some of the joy that is available to us.
Take Strava if you will, or Garmin Connect. Someone just stole your course record on your Strava segment….it makes you want to head out the door now! But did they really? What you often see is not how it really is. Strava doesn’t pick up on pauses in people’s runs when they are doing a tempo session…..so when they are supposed to be working hard without recovery, you only saw what came up on their feed. The average pace seems incredible and you are straight away comparing your ability to your running friend. Suddenly, you’re affirming what a terrible runner you must be! Today, your friend’s pace seemed kind of slow on their “morning run”. You feel immediately inflated because you often run faster. What you might have failed to notice is that your friend ran on trail, which is slower and more technical and she ran over mountains…but it left you feeling awesome because the immediate information you got was that you performed better.
Run for your own reasons, at the pace that suits you, in the locations that you enjoy. Encourage rather than compare. Congratulate your friends. Hit ‘like’ and leave a comment of encouragement and let it fuel you to keep enjoying your journey. Everyone is different. Everyone has different levels of talent and ability and everyone has good and bad days. One runner who runs at a 3.45 pace is no better than you who runs at a 7 minute pace. We are all unique but what makes us the same is that we are all out there having a go. We all have something to learn from each other. Let’s not dwell on comparison and let it steal our joy of the run.