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.