Stop The Comparisons, and Start The Celebrations

This morning, I ran 18.2 miles.  If you want to skip the next 3 paragraphs, the summary is: It. Was. TERRIFIC.

Thanks for the company, G!

Thanks for the company, G!

GCA kept me company for the middle 8.7 miles, and I ran the first 6.5 and last 3 solo.  This is the longest long run that I’ve done in a very, very long time.  In fact, I’d have to dig out my training logs to figure out exactly how long.  But trust me, it will be measured in yearS.

And I felt good – both physically and mentally.  Yes, my legs were a bit achy at the end.  Yes, I was ready to be finished.  But I felt strong, powerful, and proud.  For me, there’s something about hitting 18 that makes 26.2 finally feel achievable and real.  [Yeah, yeah – I said 26.2.  But that’s a topic for another post, hold your horses.]

So around 10 AM this morning, I threw open the door to our apartment with tired legs, a very hungry tummy, and a great big smile on my face.  I hope you’re getting the picture here: I was feeling awesome.  Tired, but awesome.

Then, I logged onto my computer, and remembered…  In my 18-miler glory, I’d temporarily forgotten that someone I used to run with in Rochester is running her first 100 mile race (TARC 100 Miler) this weekend.  [Go, Heather!]  In fact, her Friday night start in the USA occurred while I was in the middle of my Saturday morning long run in Singapore.

Suddenly, my 18 miles felt very, very small.  Heather eats 18 miles for before breakfast.   And when she has 18 miles left on Saturday afternoon, she’ll be more than 80% finished with her race.  And here I am, getting all dizzy over running 18 miles?  My mere 18 miles this morning felt like nothing, when compared to Heather’s current undertaking.

I caught myself again, for the second time in as many minutes.  I was doing exactly what so many of my runners do: Diminish their own accomplishments by comparing them to someone else’s.  This behavior drives me bananas – when they do it.  If I had a dollar for every time one of them said, “Yeah, but I’m not a real runner.  I just jog 3 miles a few times a week. But you? YOU really run!  Like, you ran 18 miles this weekend!”, I would be…well, OK, I’d still be coaching.  But I could buy all my runners an extra Tech shirt, or post-workout ice cream, or something.

My response is always something like, “Look, if you run regularly, you’re a runner. PERIOD.  I don’t care how fast you are, or how far you go.  I care that you are getting out, and getting moving.  Everyone is in a different place, and has different priorities and goals.  My actions don’t diminish yours.”

Whoops!  Apparently, the time had come to give myself the same lecture.

I have to admit, I’m pretty motivating.

I also realized that the lesson is worth sharing.  It’s not rocket science, but it is so, so easy to forget.  Both in blog-land and in real life, runners can be a competitive bunch.  We’re often tracking our paces and our distances, our progress and our goals.  It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in (dangerous) comparisons: This person is running X miles this weekend!  She is doing her tempo work at X:XX min/mi!  Her marathon PR is X:XX:XX!

This is a self-defeating attitude.  It can be physically dangerous – when these comparisons lead people down the tempting road of doing too much, too fast, too soon.  It’s also psychologically dangerous, especially for runners who are just starting, or are tackling a new distance for the first time, or are returning from injury.  So if that’s you, then listen up!

Measure yourself only against yourself.  My weekly mileage isn’t your weekly mileage.  My tempo pace isn’t your tempo pace.  My long run distance isn’t your long run distance.  Pushing yourself – whether that means going one mile further in your long run, or increasing your run interval by 30 seconds, or running your tempo workout 10 seconds faster per mile – these are all accomplishments.  They are hard-earned, whether you are a new or experienced runner.  And they all deserve to be celebrated.

So tonight, I’m rooting for Heather – she is one of the strongest and most focused runners that I know, and I can’t wait to see how her race finishes (much, much later) today.  I’m simultaneously proud of my new long run distance from this morning – for me, this has been a long time (and lots of base miles) in coming.  And I am also proud of a runner I coach, who just graduated from 1 min walk/5 min run intervals to 1 min walk/9 min run intervals.  She didn’t think she could do it – but dang, she can – and did, and is!!

Today, running has challenged, pushed, and stretched all of us.  And we have risen to accept the challenge.  We’ve done our best, faced our fears, and seen new places (both physically and mentally).  For these reasons, and many more, we all have reason to be proud of our accomplishments.

My “race” isn’t yours, and yours isn’t mine.  That’s OK.  Actually, it’s much, much more than OK.  It’s pretty stinkin’ awesome.  Why?  Because if we all run our own races on our own terms, we are also free to stand on the sidelines for each other, cheering our hearts out.  And that is really, super fun.

Let’s be free-form today: Do you have anything to add?

26 thoughts on “Stop The Comparisons, and Start The Celebrations

  1. Jill

    Great post Holly!! If only I to had a dollar for every time I remind someone to be proud of their accomplishments and to not not let someone else’s diminish theirs. I say….Revel in your own glory.

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Amen!

      Better yet, revel in everyone’s glory! I can simultaneously be proud of her 3 miles, your 12 miles, my 18 mile, and Heather’s 75 miles! Who says I can’t?? 🙂

      Reply
  2. Allee @ Griselda Mood

    Freakishly small world, but if your friend Heather is dating someone named Chris then I pretty much just solved our six degrees of separation because I went to HS with him! He’s been updating his FB page with her progress and it is INSANE! Seriously unbelievable. What a trooper she is!

    And I love this post. I am amazing at comparing myself to other runners and lessening my own achievements when i see someone else’s. For example, I want to run 5-6 miles today or tomorrow and reading your blog just now I was like “18 miles?! Man, how cheesy will my 10k be in comparison!” But I shouldn’t do that. Like you said, you’re runner if you run. Plain and simple. And no amount of speed or distance should diminish that. Preach on sister!

    But seriously good job on the 18 miles!

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Yep, that is exactly who it was, Alleeeeeee! Although frankly, it might have been MORE weird if we both knew someone doing a 100 mile trail race in New England (I think there are less than 200 participants). 🙂

      “You’re a runner if you run. Plan and simple. And no amount of speed or distance should diminish that.” YES. Exactly what I was trying to say! Now, just try to remember that for yourself! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Amy

    I love 18 mile runs. They are awesome. Congrats to you doing it in the hot humidity (How hot was it?), too! Yay-I can’t wait to get back to a good 18 miler soon – you’re energy is transferring to me across the world. One day I would love to do 100 miles, but I have many many, more goals to hit before I take that on!

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      I don’t know the exact temp; probably mid-80s and humid? Thankfully, we ran early and were able to stay in the shade for most of the run.

      Here’s to lots of hiking, exploring, trail running, and yes – 18 milers – in your future this summer! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Miss zippy

    Pretty sure you were on my trail run with me Andy friend last weekend! We talked a lot about this–she is getting ready for a tri in August and aeration in October and struggling with comparing herself to others who are doing same marathon and already logging major miles. It’s do hard–we’re often our own worst enemies on this. We all have to remember we’re individuals doing our own thing-nothing else matters!

    So yay for your 18–it IS a big deal! Enjoy the accomishment.

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Amen to all of that – I guess I was tagging along, in spirit at least! In addition to the Ego issues that you discussed so well last week, it’s amazing to consider how often we second guess ourselves – our training, or preparedness, and our accomplishments. ENOUGH!!

      Reply
  5. Doug DeWeaver

    Hi Holly! Nice job on your 18! Heather finished 75 today, Ron Heerkens ran his 50, also at TARC. We have some awesome friends. I also fall into the trap of comparing myself to others. I ran 10.4 miles today with the RFP group while we explored the bridges between the U of R and Driving Park.

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Running groups are great, but there’s always an asterisk…
      Encouragement is awesome, but too much is dangerous…
      There’s always a fine line to walk!!

      Doug, just keep your eye on the prize – you are a strong, speedy runner, and have lots more AG placing to do, as long as you run smart and healthy!! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Brennan

    Congrats on the 18, Holly. That is awesome! Did you have to change shirts five times? lol

    I don’t have anything to add to the list. Sometimes I fall victim to my own thoughts in this vein. But most of the time I’m a pretty healthy, independently driven runner. In fact, I’m not even very competitive with myself (I’m not always gunning for a PR). I run for so many reasons, and getting faster or beating someone else are two of the least important of those reasons. I just keep my eye on the important reasons (mental and physical well being) and that tends to keep me away from the destructive thoughts.

    Thanks for this post!

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      I was actually a bit worried, because the way my run played out, I had NO CHANCE TO STOP BACK HOME. I was feeling a bit panicky about the clothing situation, before reminding myself that the pleasure of a mid-run dry shirt was a recent discovery, and I’d been just fine without it. BUT I did pack one in a ziplock to carry along in my hydration pack, so I could change partway through. I also put on my ABSOLUTE favorite running shirt. I didn’t even think about changing until I set out for the last 3 miles, at which point that seemed pretty dumb. So, I did 18 miles, and sweat through just ONE SET of running gear. 🙂

      Sounds like you have a pretty healthy attitude about it – I think most runners fall victim to this train of thought at SOME time – although some get carried away on it OFTEN, and others just OCCASIONALLY. Glad you only buy a ticket for a ride now and then. 🙂 Keep it up!

      Reply
  7. Meagan

    I catch myself doing exactly what you did every once in awhile. Sometimes it’s hard to not diminish yourself when you see others achieving bigger and better things. But then I have to remember what I did was good for me, and that means something.

    Congrats on your 18 miles! I had a great 10 mile long run yesterday and I really needed it after having a tough race last weekend. The race last weekend made me question if I had any “right” to train for a full, but this weekend helped remind me that there are good days and bad ones and I can’t base everything on one run. In a few short months I will know what it feels like to run 18 miles (the longest I have ever run is 14) and I can’t wait!

    Reply
    1. Meagan

      I just read a quote by Bill Bowerman that totally fits your post. “If someone says, ‘Hey, I ran 100 miles this week; how far did you run?’ Ignore him! What the hell difference does it make? The magic is in the man, not the 100 miles.”

      Reply
      1. Holly KN Post author

        YESSSSSSSSSs. I am all over this. It is going on a follow-up blog post, with appropriate attribution (to both you, and Bill). Thanks! =)

        Reply
    2. Holly KN Post author

      Trust me (no, really, I do this for a job) – you ARE ready for marathon training. You have every “right” to be here. People run marathons with little or no previous running/race experience. It may not be your fastest marathon (in fact, it would sorta be a shame if your first was your fastest, ever), but you have the experience and mileage to start careful, smart training.

      One bad run does not define your abilities (ergo, I suggest two 20 milers!). Marathon training will help you get stronger, but physically AND mentally. Attack it! =)

      Reply
  8. Jean

    While I was reading this, I had an image of a half-time locker room scene in my head. You’re the coach. I also sort of felt like cheering at the end like in all those sports movies. You’re right! You shouldn’t diminish YOUR accomplishments because of what someone else is doing. It’s an easy trap to fall into. Thanks for the reminder!

    Also, 18(.2) miles – dayum!! Way to go!

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      I look best in a headband, holding a clipboard, sweat flying everywhere while I yell at the troops. Errr…players. 😉

      PS Don’t let my 18 undermine you and your training plan. I am not training Hanson style right now. So nevermind about me. Think about you. Less than one week! !!!!!! Dang, I’M getting excited, and I’m not even the one who’s running! =)

      Reply
  9. Nadiya @ Milk and Honey on the Run

    Oh competition. I wonder is humans possess some special gene that makes us naturally competitive. Probably…

    I won’t lie but I compare myself to others all the time. I used to be horrible when I just started university and throughout high school. Everything was about beating someone else in terms of grades or really anything. As I grow older I realize that it’s all a bunch of BS.

    I can totally see a downfall with comparing your weekly mileage to others. Some people just do too much and don’t take breaks to heal up. When I just started running I used to be like, wow they’re so good! Now I realize that it’s not necessarily good 🙁

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Well, I can think of plenty of historical/evolutionary reasons that a competitive spirit would come in handy. And it does push us in good ways, sometimes – to perform better at work, at home, or in athletic endeavors. But there are all these nasty side effects! 🙂

      Definitely steel yourself against this feeling in grad school, and remember that each person’s grad school experience is unique – make sure that YOU are getting what YOU need out of the experience, and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. That’s a sure recipe for frustration! 🙂

      Seems like you’ve come around to see and believe in your own training plans, now – good for you! Especially if you’re training for a tri – your needs and goals will be very different from those who are only running!!

      Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Although now that it’s fire/haze season (you understand), I’m worrying about this weekend’s 18. 18miles on the treadmill is a long.freakin’.way… 🙂

      Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Heather finished the day with 75 miles, her longest run EVER. And she ran through some pretty ridiculous mud pits/river crossings/etc. It’s like…stuff I’d do for 13 or maybe 20 miles, but 75? WHOA!!!! She is a MACHINE.

      I can’t say much about my runner without her permission, but my training plans usually take people up to (1 min walk/5 min run) x 7, then start mixing in shorter workouts with longer running intervals (1 min walk/9 min run) x 2. I’m not telling you anything new, but I find that most people can make the jump physically, and the shorter overall workout (“I only have to do 2 run segments!”) helps with the psychological aspect! 🙂

      Reply
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