Sometimes past achievements are wonderful and inspiring. Unbelievable even – I look at my race photos and medals and think: I did an Ironman? Really? And other times these achievements hang over you like a burden – when I struggle to maintain a 9:30 min/mile I can feel crushed by the fact that I ran 8:20s for an entire marathon not too long ago.
Comparing yourself to others is another sweet way to make yourself feel crappy about your performance. Scroll through social media, look at your fit and slim and fast friends and it can feel like it’s not even worth trying.
When you’re in the slogs – coming out of injury, or a training break, the only way is up and the way back feels mighty steep at times. While you’re injured, you think that all you want is to run pain-free, and yet as soon as you’re there, you become greedy and think you also might want to run fast.
As always, running is how I understand myself in life. All the above can be read as a metaphor for the comparing I do all day in my head if I’m not careful. I compare myself with what I have been, what I could be, and then I zing it all up by comparing myself to others. But again, as always, running also offers the way out. Because all this crappy thinking (and this comparing thinking IS crappy thinking, take it from me) eventually peters out on a run. I start of with all this stuff running round my head, but 15 minutes into a run I’m usually loosened up, I’ve inhaled a good deal of fresh air, my legs are free and I forget to focus on what has been and what could be and my butterfly mind completely forgets to torture itself and is thinking of something entirely different.
In running, as in life, the only way ahead here is to begin again. To accept you are where you are and to go with that.
I mentioned a few posts ago that I have, for now, given up on yoga. Lots of people came up to me or commented and said “I loved your anti-yoga post!”. It wasn’t anti-yoga, honestly. I was anti-yoga for me. And possibly, more accurately, it was anti-being-in-a-classroom-in-a-led-exercise-format. That format has rarely worked for me (here’s where I don’t add up what I spent on classes and courses I ended up dropping out of because of the above). I realise now, however, that I have taken some stuff from yoga and particularly from the meditation sections (which had me squirming, I’m not going to lie, but I think that’s not unusual). The idea of the comparing mind, and how it undermines you, for one. And also the idea that every day is a new beginning; that you are where you are and out of this an awareness that we do not need to be so burdened by the past.
Big words, perhaps, when applied to the running paces of a middle-aged, middle-of-the-pack runner. But that middle-aged, middle-of-the-pack runner happens to be me, and I’m the only experiment of one I can go with.
So I’m experimenting with setting myself free every day, and being aware of the comparing mind, and wishing it a fond farewell when I become aware of it. It doesn’t serve me, it doesn’t help me. It doesn’t spur me on – it slows me down.
I’m beginning again with my running. The direction is still unclear – I’m not sure what I’m training for right now but that will come to me. I’m running a marathon in early June with my brother but I’m approaching that as a training run and a family event – coach and I will set some paces for different sections and meeting them will be the challenge rather than setting any kind of PR.
Beyond that, things are unsure. I’m open to suggestions. I would like to run somewhere new and try a new race. I would love to tie it in with visiting some friends and having a holiday. I haven’t done that for years, and I miss it. So send me some ideas, give me a suggestion. And know that, in the meantime, I’m back on the roads, beginning again.