I saw a motivational poster that said “The race is not with the person beside you, the race is with the person within you.” I thought it was actually a pretty cool saying. Tweetable at the least. But this is an area I have had some difficulty with. My competitive desire is to be fast, and when I am not, I start looking around. I start comparing myself to others (these “others” are usually always faster runners) and I wonder do I have what it takes to be here today. This type of negative thinking can really set a person back. I mean, why constantly show up and pay money to run if you are not placing? Right?
I started running to try to stay in shape. I had no desire to race at all, I just wanted to run. A friend of mine talked my wife and I into running a 5K. A 10K popped up on the radar. I decided I could try it out. Still no desire to race I signed up for a 25K, then a half marathon. Within a year of my first 5K I was hooked. Although hooked, I didn’t really want to race any long distances. All the while I kept getting frustrated at my lack of speed and my low endurance level. I want to be fast so I have to compare myself with all the fast dudes!!! Sounds logical?
After constantly comparing myself to others around me and always coming out less than average, I decided to take another approach. Some people may say it’s the easy way out or the “feel good about you” approach, but what if I evaluated myself as me and stopped trying to be someone else? I have all my old log books with miles and times in them. This might even justify to my wife why I keep them around!
Thumbing through the old logs jogged some memories for me. The first time I ran 13 miles on a training run I ran out of water and lost a toe nail. My first time on the trails a 12 mile trek through old abandoned forest roads where I tripped the dude that invited me. My first 20 mile run in which I was in no way prepared for so many walk breaks ensued.
Digging through theses records uncovered a few more things than old memories. It uncovered MY progression as a runner over the past 3 ½ years. I was able to see how much I have grown as runner. As the calendar progressed with each month, I saw a drop in time on my runs. My 5K pace was faster each race. My first ever 5K time was 23:12. My most recent timed 5k, 20:36. My training runs were faster than previous ones. My first 13.1 mile run I had a time of 2:12. My fastest 13.1 run; 1:38. My weekly mileage began to pick up, almost doubling what the previous months had been. January 2010, 52 miles. January 2011, 73 miles. January 2012, 181 miles. My endurance level allowed me to run continually without frequent walk breaks. December 2010 first 20 mile run, struggle just to finish. December 2011, back to back 20 mile runs on New Years Eve and New Years Day.
It finally hit me that I have to compare myself to me. Do I want to run fast? YES!!! But if I focus all my thoughts on being as fast as some other dude, I lose sight of how fast I really am. The only way to measure this is by comparing myself to me.
When all the training group shows up, I am still the slowest guy in the group. When we talk weekly mileage, I am still the low man on the totem pole. But you compare “me now” to “me then,” even the fast dudes are amazed.