Friday, February 24, 2012

Running my way

Two of my own personal struggles in life are comparing myself to others and worrying about what others think about me.  I do it all the time in all aspects of my life.

I don't think that I will eliminate this type of thinking completely but in the last few days I have removed it from one portion of my life.  My running.

Here's a little background:

I think I may have only started running because that is what all my online friends were doing.  I don't really remember what motivated me.  I do know that I hated it.  I hated it, but oddly I kept at it and wanted to be better at it.  All my friends were running 5k's so, dammit, I was going to run 5k's too!

I started the Couch to 5k program, signed up for my first race, got about 6 weeks into the training and quit.  Walked 80% of my first 5k and was ashamed of myself. But I kept signing up for races and I kept running, albeit on a random basis. For 2 years I never ran more than a mile without stopping and I never ran more than 3.2 miles at once. 

In September I ran the Race for the Cure and only walked twice.  That was a record for me.  I also ran that race faster than any other I had done before.  It turned a light bulb on in my head and made me want to run even more.

When I signed up for the Shamrock Run in March of this year, I set my goal to be the 15k but quickly realized I didn't have the time or motivation to train that hard, so I settled for running the 8k.  In my head, that translated to 6.5 miles.  I don't know why I thought it was that long...I am not very bright, I guess.

All of my runner friends run several times a week and they run long distance.   On Twitter I see updates like "XXX just finished a 200 mile run in 86 minutes and felt GREAT." It would make me feel like crap every time.  Why can't I run that far or that fast? Why am I not that amazing?  Why am I only running 3 miles in 45 minutes once a week and calling myself a "Runner"?

That guilt actually got me motivated to run more, so I guess it worked.  I bought all the running gear I could get my hands on -- GPS, compression pants, cold weather gear, warm weather gear, iPod running apps etc. Each time I would go out for a run, I would push it a little further when I felt like walking.  I noticed that if I ran slower, I can go longer without stopping.  The first time I ran for 3 miles nonstop I averaged a 13 minute mile.  I cried big fat proud tears of joy when I got home.  When I bragged about my run, I only said how far I went...not how fast. I didn't want anyone to know that grandma's could walk faster than I run.

Since that run, I have managed to push myself to 5 (almost 6) mile runs outdoors without stopping, and 3 miles on the boring ass treadmill.  I finally love running.  I feel so much better after I pound out some miles.

On my last run I let my brain wander and I thought about 2 people that I really look up to regarding running.  Both of them run long distances on a regular basis.  I automatically assumed that they run them quickly and without stopping. I learned recently that both of these things wasn't true about them.  It really blew my mind.  Why had I wasted so much mental energy berating myself for not being as good as I thought they were? Why was I only getting satisfaction when I did something better or equal to someone else? The act of running brings me so much joy, why do I let others squash that joy by comparing my success to theirs? My running, is MY business and no one else's.  I run for ME. No one can bring me gratification from my runs but ME so therefor I really need to only be concerned about how I feel.  From that moment on, I decided that I needed to reframe my thinking.

When someone jumps on the treadmill next to me, I try not to glance at their feet anymore to see if they are running faster than me.  I try not to make a mental list of who started running before/after me to see who stops first. When I see other runners outside I don't adjust my form or go faster until we cross paths (yes, I still wait until they can't see me if I want to take a walk break...). When I run past the freeway I don't wonder if the people in the cars are looking at me and thinking negative things about how slow I am. Instead I think that maybe that person is wishing they were out running too. When I see a friend ran 10 miles, or ran a 7 minute mile, I refuse let that make me feel like less of a runner. 

I am a runner.  I am amazing.  I can do anything. And I my opinion is the only one that matters!
Now, my friends, I want to leave you with a quote that has really inspired me lately. It resonates with me in a lot of ways, and I hope it does the same for you.
To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don't need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.
~Thich Nhat Hanh~