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.


  1. LOL! Vintage Bang! Love it! I love this post! Thank you! I have had that same negative talk from a co worker that talks crap about her body and it is ALWAYS something that I have that is the same thing but worse on me! It drives me nuts! She will get a slap soon!

    Love ya!

  2. I loved reading this! I am
    Incredibly slow (for now!) and often, when people complain about being "super slow" it is always waaaay faster than what I'd hope to run on a good day! But, I've never run in my life. Ever.

    In high school gym, I defiantly walked the entire mile (you know, because obesity is cool). But I've stopped worrying about that! I glodly posted on daily mile when my run splits were 12:00/mile and was PROUD even though some walk that fast. For me, it is good.

    Great post!

  3. I totally needed to read this- we all have good days and bad. I have to constantly remind myself that I am not my boyfriend (who inspired me to start running), I am not the bloggers I read about, I am not an Olympian, I'm ME and this is my journey. Nobody has this body, nobody knows my obstacles- the fact that I get out there and am changing years of bad habits is a journey in and of itself.

    LOVED this post.

  4. I need to read this every day! Such a great post! Love it!

  5. I've had this post marked on my reading list and finally just read it now. I totally feel the same way as you (and am now hoping it wasn't something I wrote that you're referring to!) I have had many conversations with faster runners who were upset about their times when I was there just wishing I could run even close to their "bad times". I like to feel super proud of any run I do so I try to let those comments bounce off but it's true, we are all so hard on ourselves. Great post.