It happens quickly. Your mood while mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds can go from happy to envious after seeing other peoples’ race times and epic runs. We’re all guilty to some degree. Once the negative self-talk starts and you may think “there’s no way I can race as fast or run as far.”
Each runner is unique, with unique goals and abilities. When you try to mirror someone else’s pace or training volume, you suck the joy out of your run experiences. So what if a friend from college ran a marathon 20 minutes faster than you? Running should be about you, about your accomplishments and the strength and happiness benefits you reap.
Most of us run for fun. We aren’t winning big prize money. We are competing, but against ourselves. Sure, it’s fun to challenge yourself to try to catch the person in front of you. It’s also necessary to be realistic about your training. The important thing is to lace up and be true to you.
Two years ago, I was running the Carmel Half Marathon in Carmel, Ind., and was feeling like crap around mile eight. That’s when I first met Ashley. She passed me and I cheered her on. But we struck up a conversation, and she said she was feeling blah too. She even offered for her husband, who was riding his bike next to her, to carry my hat and gloves. We hit it off immediately.
I finished about a minute behind her. We talked, exchanged numbers, stalked each other on Facebook and, two years later, Ashley is one of my closest friends.
Our paces are similar, but instead of looking at each other as competition, we realized we had each found the perfect training partner. Life limits the miles we run together. Yet we still enjoy it when it happens.
Instead of pushing each other to go faster, our runs are often a time to slow down and appreciate each other for what we can give in the moment. We get excited about the other’s PRs, offer encouragement on hard tempo runs and provide support during sloth-like pregnancy miles.
The next time you are struggling on a run or comparing yourself to other runners on social media, remember that everyone runs her own race. And how you respond can make all the difference. Appreciating Ashley’s enthusiasm when we met, instead of getting frustrated because she was having a better day than me, allowed us to become the friends we are today.