Your Own Journey: Stop Comparing Yourself to Someone Else

You get back from a run that you’re feeling overjoyed about. You just hit all the paces in your workout, ran a great pace over a long distance, and you’re feeling good about yourself. You get all excited to post about it on Instagram to brag a little about that awesome run you just had. You click on the Instagram icon on your phone, type up your post along with a picture of you giving a big thumbs up after that awesome run, and click “Post”. People start liking your photo, commenting things like, “you rock!” or, “awesome workout!”.

And then you start scrolling. Scrolling through everyone else’s posts from their runs and seeing how they nailed “xyz” workout and you come across someone who ran the same distance as you but maybe at a faster pace. So you start justifying. “They probably didn’t run as many hills or as challenging a course as I did.” or “They’re running in beautiful weather and I’m stuck with this garbage weather so of course their run would be faster.” or even “Well the pace doesn’t tell everything. Maybe they stopped on their run but the overall time doesn’t reflect that.”

Hold up. 5 minutes ago you were happy with the run you just had, elated. So why does seeing someone else having success suddenly make you feel less-than or that you have to justify what you just did? It’s the all-too common comparison trap, and thanks to sharing sites like Instagram and Strava, it’s easier than ever to get caught up in it.

There’s a shirt out on the marketplace that says, “My Race My Pace”. As amateur runners, the only person we need to be comparing ourselves to is well, ourselves. We’re not elites, our paycheck doesn’t depend on how fast we run or how we stack up against the competition. That doesn’t mean you still can’t be competitive on a racing circuit, however, this is your journey and you’re going to progress at a different pace (literally) than other runners on Instagram or beyond. Celebrate your personal victories, regardless of how they stack up to people you admire on Instagram. We are all on an individual journey and if you’ve been hitting your paces in challenging workouts, that should be reassurance to you that you’re on track to achieving your goals, not that you’re any less-than someone else who may have had a faster workout.

We don’t always know what our peers’ goals are and even if we do they may have a different plan to get them to those goals; there isn’t only one way to get to a goal and coaches often have different philosophies and strategies for each of their athletes depending on their schedules, injury-history, etc. As athletes we are all different. Although it may be frustrating to see someone with natural ability reach higher levels without having to extend as much effort, relish in the fact that you have a strong work ethic and even if it takes you longer to get to the same goal you have continued to be persistent and trusting the process.

There is always going to be someone faster, someone stronger, someone who appears to be having success in everything they do. Utilize these individuals as inspiration, not as someone to compare your own times to. Look back on how far you’ve come as an athlete and use that as your benchmark for success. When out on the race course, you can still be a fierce competitor, but be in it for yourself most of all. Congratulate those you follow who are doing a great job, too. This community will only continue to be a positive one if we commend one another for a job well done and be happy that others are reaching their goals, too.

Comparison is the thief of joy. This is your journey and no one else can do a better job of being you than you.



An Update on My Marathon Training Cycle

There are 67 days to go until the Boston Marathon. Each day that the time ticks down leaves me feeling just a little more nervous, but I feel like I’m finally hitting my stride in this training cycle. It feels a lot different than when I was training for Berlin last year and I think for a while I was expecting the two cycles to feel the same, but I’ve realized now that I’m chasing bigger goals in different weather conditions that things are bound to feel different.

I am scheduled to run a half marathon on March 17th in Cary, Illinois. The March Madness Half Marathon is touted as the most challenging half marathon in Northern Illinois and for good reason – the hills are intense and keep on coming. I’ve run the course twice now this cycle for training runs and fortunately the second time was better than the first which means I’m improving, but it’s scary to think I’ll be trying to race on the course in just over a month. I don’t feel ready yet. While I never expected to PR at this race because of how challenging the course is, even if it was flat I don’t think I’m in PR shape. It’s then I realize that I’ve only truly been training for Boston for the last month and in just a month’s time so much has changed and my body has been adapting. After running the course last weekend I came home and told Ross, my husband, that I was so tempted to ditch the race and sign up for another half marathon happening the same day on a much flatter and faster course in the south suburbs. “I need a confidence booster,” I said. “Last cycle I had the August half marathon in Minnesota where I PR’d just 6 weeks before Berlin and it gave me so much confidence going into the marathon.”

I explained this to my coach last night on a phone call and something she said to me has stuck with me since. “You’re going to be training at paces slower than you’re used to because of the hills you’re running on. The half marathon will be a good test of your effort over the hills which is similar to what you’re going to encounter in Boston. You won’t be paying attention to your pace as much as you’re going to have to be paying attention to your effort on each section of the course to run a smart race.” This is why we have coaches, friends. They give us tiny nuggets of advice like this that remind us that we’re doing just fine and the plan will work. I do notice changes happening already. When I ran a stride workout last week on a flat course, I was cruising after doing all my runs on hilly routes. 7:22 pace overall for 6 miles felt nearly effortless and it is runs like that that will build my confidence. Just this week I ran a hilly speed workout over 9 miles averaging close to my goal marathon pace and by the end things were feeling really comfortable and I unintentionally ran my “cool-down” at marathon effort over hills.

It’s hard for me not to have check-ins this go around like I did when training for Berlin. What helps me is to gain confidence from reading last year’s journals and analyzing data from the paces I was running this time last year. I’ve definitely grown and improved as an athlete and am starting at a different place than I was at the start of 2018. I’m starting to look at the positives of the Cary half coming up – the first couple miles start off on a downhill just like Boston will so it’ll force me to run a strategic race to not burn myself out before getting to the hills. I’ll have to learn how to work downhills and conserve for uphills and this knowledge of tactical racing will serve me well on Boston’s challenging course. Every marathon and half marathon I’ve raced to date has been relatively flat so this isn’t something I’ve had to deal with before so in a sense I’m growing as an athlete by expanding my capabilities.

I know the hardest weeks are ahead of me in February and March but I think over the last couple of weeks I’ve finally shook the funk that I started with at the beginning of this training cycle. A super low mileage October and November made December a challenge getting back into shape post-injury but it’s amazing how quickly our fitness returns once our body is healthy and we consistently complete workouts. I’m staying the course, trusting the process (and my coach), and will keep showing up every day because that’s all I can ask of myself.

Here’s what I plan to work on over the next few weeks in my own training:

1. Continuing to build my mind and empower a positive mindset. This means re-reading books like “Let Your Mind Run” by Deena Kastor, listening to my favorite running podcasts for inspiration, and surrounding myself with people and places that bring me joy and separating myself from the things that do not whenever I have a choice.
2. Nailing down a nutrition plan for taking gels and water at the race. I will be practicing this in my long runs and the half marathon because I do not want to have a repeat of the Chicago Marathon sh** show (literally) in Boston.
3. Making sleep and recovery a priority by going to bed on time and maintaining consistency in my routine
4. Building strength. I’ve been doing a good job this cycle of incorporating more weights and strength training into my daily plan and I’m already noticing the results (oh hey there, arm muscles!). This added strength will make me a more efficient runner and help me be stronger on a very tactical course.