I, for one, am okay with this truth. It allows me to stand amazed at those who can run double the distance I can, at a pace significantly faster than mine, while also appreciating the challenge placed before new runners as they train to run their first 5k.
I have run a total of 21 marathons so far. My first marathon was a 5:24, and my current best is a 3:58. That means I have taken almost an hour and a half off of my marathon time. Impressive? Sure. Not so much, however, if you compare me to the many marathon runners I know whose first marathon was a 3:20. Knowing this, was I still ecstatic to cross that finish line in under 4 hours? You better believe it!
I have also run a 40 mile trail race. That is a long way to go on foot. Still, there were many ultra runners out there that day who had run double that distance (maybe even triple) and at a much faster pace than I ran my 40. With that information, was it still an amazing accomplishment for me to complete that race? Without a doubt! I reveled in it for days…weeks even!
I believe it is human nature to compare, and that is why I'm addressing this topic. I cannot count the conversations I have had with new and experienced runners alike that go something like this:
Friend (said with excitement): “I am up to 4 miles now and I am almost ready to sign up for my first 10k!”
Me (mirroring excitement): “Wow! That is really great!”
Friend: “Yeah, well I know it is nothing compared to what you do, but I am happy about it.”
Me (floundering): “It is too something! And you should be happy about it…”
And then I try to say something about how I’ve been running for 15 years or how I remember my first several 5ks and how I had to walk to finish them. Or how even now I have days when 3 miles seems hard. And I am a little embarrassed by the comparison in the first place because I am fully aware of the entire spectrum of runners and exactly where I fit within it.
So here is the second running truth of the day (made up by me): Your running accomplishments are awesome. End of story. While a race is a race and the purpose is to see who can run that distance in the shortest amount of time, only about 10% of the runners out there are actually trying to beat someone or win.* I think a little healthy competition is good and helps us all push a little harder, but you should never negate what you do because there is someone out there who can do it better. If that were the case, we should all have given up ages ago.
So be proud of what you do. Whether it is your first 10k or your first 100 mile race, if you are just starting out or returning to the sport. Be proud, stay humble and most importantly, keep running.
*There is the possibility this could be a slight exaggeration, but not much...