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