Thursday, August 30, 2012

Comparison: the thief of joy

It's been said that comparison is the thief of joy. I recently read someone's post-workout rant about how awfully slow her run had been. We have all had those days, where our head is just not in it and our feet feel like cement blocks. Further reading of this "terrible" workout recap led me to realize that this horrible, slow pace was actually run at my usual speed. It got me to thinking: one person's worst-ever run could very well be another runner's personal best.

On saying "I'm a runner" - via Runner's World, August 2012

It can be discouraging to hear someone bad-mouth their own effort when that same result would elicit a cheer from someone else. To me it was reminiscent of hearing someone thinner than me complain about how fat they are. While she may legitimately not be in her top physical shape, it made me wonder... if she believed she was so hideous at what I deemed an ideal size, what did she think of me at my larger size? Was I even more grotesque and repulsive than she seemed to think she was?

I had this conversation with a good friend of mine last week. She made a negative comment about her appearance and I asked her, "would you say the same thing about me?" She looked at me in horror and immediately blurted out "Of course not!" I will pose the same question to you that I did to her: why do we treat ourselves differently than we do our friends? If the words you just uttered are so mean that you would never even consider saying them to a close friend, why would you say such hurtful things to yourself?

My first instinct after reading that runner's recap was to feel badly for myself for not being as fast as her. It was then I realized how unhealthy it is to compare my abilities to those of another. That person could have been running since they were 15 years old, for all I know. Ultimately I had to remind myself that I have only been running for one year and in that year I have already made a world of progress. No one else has had the same life experiences, struggles, or victories that I have. We may all be runners but the paths that led us to that commonality are wildly varied, and that's a beautiful thing! As long as we are moving forward as individuals, we win. It's when we fall prey to comparison that we begin to lose ground.

I have heard so many runners say "I'm not a real runner" or "I'm too slow to be a runner". Would you tell your friend those things? Could you look your best friend in the eye and say "Those 3 miles you just did at a 15 minute pace were great and all but that's not really running"?? If so, I hope you have quick reflexes to avoid the inevitable slap in the face. Guess what? If you run, you're a runner! If you want something to fuel your competitive spirit, think about your best/fastest/longest run and race against yourself. I take pride in knowing that my current self could out-run Vintage Bang (circa 2011) in a heartbeat. But you know what? I love my former self all the same, because without her I couldn't be the runner I am today.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I run because I can

Hey guys! I hope this week has been treating everyone well. Things are great here, albeit busy as usual. Yesterday marked my 13th week of half-marathon training. I started training way in advance of my race because it is my first half and quite honestly, I've been running less than a year so I wanted to start slowly! My longest run to-date has been just over 10 miles, which is a huge accomplishment for me. 13.1 doesn't seem so far off anymore! Yesterday we ran 8 very hilly miles. I've mentioned before that a lot of people in my pace group dislike hills but personally I have a love/hate relationship with them. They are challenging, for sure, but there is a lot of satisfaction derived from conquering them too.

Yesterday's run began at the art museum and although it was humid, the air was nice and cool for once. We ran along local streets, passing horses and cows, until finally reaching a local state park. I am used to running on even, paved ground so it was a new experience running on gravel and paths but it was a fun challenge. As we entered the park we started ascending the most massive of all the hills. Myself and another girl were at the front of the group setting the pace and I could hear some grumbles from behind as we started our climb. Then all of a sudden from the back of the pack I hear a voice singing "The hills are aliiiiive with the sound of musiiiiiiic."

Uhhh what?! I burst out laughing as the voice continued to sing and some others joined in. That pretty much set the tone for the entire 8 miles and we sang ourselves silly as we traversed the hilly park. I've said it before and I will likely say it countless more times, I love running with a group. A year ago I would have laughed in your face had you told me I'd be waking up at 5:15am on Saturday mornings and running ridiculous amounts of mileage. But I actually look forward to it. Running and being a part of this community has filled a void somewhere deep within my heart that I did not know existed. For that I am grateful!

Oh, and my race calendar is filling up as I've signed up for two new races this week! A couple of months ago I was hugely disappointed when I found out that the Color Run had changed the date for their NC run and that I would be out of town for a wedding on the rescheduled date. Seriously, I was heartbroken over it. Yesterday before our long run, I was talking to one of my running buddies and she mentioned that Color Me Rad was coming to town in October. No way!!! It is essentially the same concept and is right in Raleigh and on a day I'm in town. I signed up as soon as I got home from my run! That might have been the best news I heard all week.

For those unfamiliar with these races, they're basically one big happy celebration of color. The only requirement for the race is that you wear a white t-shirt. The race is 5K in length and every kilometer you are doused with a different color of magical powder aka cornstarch. By the end of the 5K you are a giant colorful rainbow of a mess and are smiling like a crazy person. Ah, my idea of heaven.

Before our run yesterday, there were a series of announcements. One was made by a woman named Sarah Witt, who was an avid runner until one day she was diagnosed with a motor neuron disease called Primary Lateral Sclerosis. Sarah is now confined to a wheelchair and no longer able to run. Her voice waivered as she spoke about her love of running and how quickly it was taken away from her. My eyes teared up hearing the pain in her voice, saddened at the thought of loving something so much and then having it taken away.

In that moment I realized that I truly love running. It's hard to remember what life was like before I began to run and I can't imagine never being able to enjoy that feeling again. From the very beginning, when people have asked me why I run, I have said I run because I can. That's not me being a smartass, it's the most honest and instinctual answer I can give. I run because a year ago, I couldn't. I run because there will come a day in the future when I no longer can. I run for the people whose day has come too soon.

Suffice it to say, Sarah's story touched me personally and I wanted to do what I could to support her. She is affiliated with a mile run called The Magnificent Mile Race that raises money to support the research of upper motor neuron disorders. I signed up as soon as I could and look forward to lending my support next month!

Tell me, why do you run?