What I’ve Learned About Comparison Through Running
A little over two years ago, after swearing off running, I ran my first 5k. It was the iRun 5k in Albany, OR and I clocked in with a time of 29:50. I got a free race entry from somebody who had won one off of the local radio station, and honestly had no idea what I was doing. It was my first race, ever. I remember praying I could do it in under thirty minutes. And I did! Barely.
Less than two months later, I ran my first half-marathon. The Eugene Marathon. I didn’t really have a goal except to finish without walking. I did it. I didn’t walk the entire race. I should have been so proud of myself! However, I remember feeling so defeated.
“All of my friends beat me!” “I’m so lame!” “Wow, I’m so slow!”
I was less than 9 months postpartum, had never run in my life before this training cycle, and just completed a freaking half-marathon?!?! Present me wants to punch past me in the throat. (Just kidding… grace..)
Since then, two years and another pregnancy have passed. I have learned a lot about running but even more about progress and comparison.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
As I have mentioned before, I have always struggled with comparison. Comparing myself to celebrities, models, other girls, anyone who was better than me in any way. I have always struggled with the fact that somebody will always be better than me at something.
In my head, I knew the facts. That I was fearfully and wonderfully made. I knew that I was a daughter of the Creator of the freaking universe. I knew that I was loved, not only by Him, but also by my family and friends. In my heart however, it was never enough.
In college, my relationship with Christ got stronger and the things I knew in my head were put deeper in my heart, and I struggled a little bit less. As I get older, it is still a struggle (as I’m sure it is with most people) but I am maturing and learning how little it matters.
In running especially, comparing myself to others (in an unhealthy way) is visibly detrimental.
I remember running the Eugene Marathon two years ago, and seeing people who “looked” way less in-shape than I did. I would think “Oh yeah, I know I’ll beat them at least!” When they inevitably passed me in the race, (and as I kept getting passed by people..) it wore on me. And wore on me.
I never stopped running in that race, but I internally beat myself up with each person that passed me, that i just knew I should have beat.
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I was mad. All of my friends who I had trained with had already crossed the finish line and were eating their post-race goodies. My husband (who is just way faster than me) had been done for almost an hour. I put on a happy face to celebrate with a post-race lunch, but as soon as I was in the car, the floodgates opened.
I verbally assaulted myself the whole way home. Ha. (It’s funny to look back on now, because of 1) how much I’ve learned about running since then, and 2) how much I’ve matured in this area.) My poor husband did not know what to do, and I think was disgusted/shocked by how I was acting. I know I was.
I still struggle with comparison, but I have learned a lot – including that somebody else’s journey will look COMPLETELY different than mine. I don’t know their struggles and what they have gone through to get to the point they are at.
All I know is where I am, and that when I do things that are hard (or easy!) I should be proud of me.
Beat Yourself (but don’t beat yourself up)
I think my biggest lesson came in my most recent race (where I got a 10 minute PR!)
The night before, I remember telling somebody that “It’s not really a race, it’s more of a run for me.” and just laughing about how funny (and true) I thought that statement was. When I was running the race however, I had a realization. Just because I wasn’t vying for a top ten spot (again, with the comparison!) did not mean I wasn’t racing.
I was racing – and my opponent was myself.
In running, the goal for me is always to PR. If I can set a personal record, I know that I can be proud of what I just did, because it was the best I have ever done it.
Once I had the “a-ha!” moment during the race, the race became fun. I remember telling Dan that it was my third half-marathon, but the first one where I finished esctatic, and stayed on a runner’s high for about a week.
When I crossed the finish line and realized I had crushed my goal of 02:09:59, I broke down into tears. It was such an overwhelming moment of joy and gratitude for a body that was able to do that!
I am so appreciative for running and what it has taught me in the past two years. If you have ever considered running (or any form of exercise – I think most of these lessons can be taught through lifting, Crossfit, etc!) I highly recommend you go for it! You never know what your body will be capable of if you just give it a shot.
What new activities have you been wanting to try? Let me know in the comments below and make sure to follow me on Instagram where you can see more of my running journey documented in my stories.