Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A private race

I picked up a copy of the latest Runner's World from the library the other day. It's not exactly that I need to add more to my reading pile, rather a glimmer of hope of resolving my love/hate feelings towards the sport. Running seems very charming on the surface, but dig a little deeper and I can see all the faults. Yet one flicker of a smile from Running and I keep coming back. Running has even made my best friend Walking seem slow and cumbersome, so while out Walking I can't help but think about Running.

Next week I am free of Running's schedule, so I am growing desperate to know if there will be another date or if our relationship is over. By sitting down for a moment with the running community I had hoped to find my answer I guess. What is it that Running had infected others with that they keep coming back?

I haven't found the answer in those pages, but instead I found another of Running's virtues. At the end of a few of the articles after the author's name was listed their personal best time. Apart from feeling shocked at how quickly 5K could be run (the women's world record is 14:11 held by Ethiopia's Tirunesh Dibba) I didn't think too much about it until the following day.

We were discussing what we thought of as success after finding out what some old high school buddies have been up to in the last 10 years. It's easy to say that success is dependent on the individual, but harder to not feel average in comparison to your peers when they have been recognised for their talents. And yet, not everyone has the same talents and interests that they can be recognised for and therefore measure up against their peers. I thought about my own current interests and I thought about running, about personal best times.

Sometimes I have felt embarrassed reporting with great enthusiasm that I've just run for 25 minutes. After all, some of you have done half or full marathons so what's 5K in comparison? Then I would remind myself that for me, it is a big deal because I have never been able to run that far. I am my own benchmark.

While in many aspects of life I strive to keep up with my peers or meet expectations, running and fitness in general is not one of them. What a relief it is to just run for my own enjoyment and watch my own improvements without measuring up against anyone else. Unless I'm out to win a race there is no reason to compete, because everyone has their own story of how they came to be where they are. And even in the feature stories in Runner's World few people talked about winning the marathon, instead focusing on accomplishing their own goal, whether to qualify for another marathon or aiming for a personal best. It's as though they were running alone on an empty road and all that mattered during their race was them and the pavement.

So I like that running is all about me, all about my body and my limits. I like pushing my own boundaries and seeing how far I can go to become fitter, stronger, faster and better looking. I like that I am finally in control and becoming who I want to be. While I won't exactly be posting my accomplishments on Facebook, I can still be proud of myself for my achievements.

How about you. Do you work towards a personal best or winning the race? Do you like a bit of friendly competition to keep you motivated?


  1. "I am my own benchmark"- I like that phrase!

    As soon as I start comparing myself to others in running, I begin to loathe the sport. It's when I see how far I'VE come that I feel motivated to keep going. I feel just the same about running as you do!

    - Sagan

  2. I only like competition when I'm likely to win... and with me & running, that ain't happening!

    But there's something so wonderful about being out on a pretty trail, running to great music--I keep coming back to running even though it's totally trashed my knees.

    And I like that "I am my own benchmark" too!

  3. Sagan - Yeah I hate comparing to anyone but myself. Then I am nothing if not brilliant!

    Crabby - Trashed knees? Mmm that's definitely one of the downsides and something that worries me.



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