Comparison is the thief of joy

Oh flippin’ heck Darren we’ve just been overtaken by a girl, this is well embarrassin’!

My heart broke a little bit as I ran past a couple of teenage lads at my local parkrun who were struggling on the first lap and were clearly not impressed that a lowly ‘girl’ had gone past them.  I stopped to chat with them a little bit and to encourage them on, explaining that I’ve done lots of parkruns and that they were most likely running much faster than I was when I first started out.  To be honest I don’t think they appreciated me engaging in conversation when they were struggling for breath and I probably came across as a right smug wanker so I left them to it.

But we all do it, don’t we?  Compare ourselves to others.  And it always ends up with the same sinking feeling of disappointment.  Of not being good enough.  Of not being fast enough.  Of not running far enough.  And it’s bullshit.

On Saturday I did something terrifying – I took part in a crossfit throwdown.  It was basically a competition where, in pairs, you took part in three different workouts throughout the day and your scores were added up.  To make it even more interesting, it was ‘hero’ fancy dress.  I didn’t want to go as your typical superhero so I chose someone who was a personal hero of mine….

Doing my best to impersonate Jessica Ennis!

Doing my best to impersonate Jessica Ennis!

Even though it was all for charity and a bit of fun I was still nervous.  I’ve only been going to crossfit for six months and my team mate only about three months so both of us agreed to just enjoy the day and do the best we could.  Mission accomplished!

Pain face!

We had a right laugh and worked really hard.  But the results table?  Trust me, we were far from a podium finish!  In fact we were almost dead last.  But why on earth would we compare ourselves to people who are quite frankly well out of our league?  To people who’ve been doing this for years?  To people who regularly lift significantly heavier than we could ever dream of?  Why would we rob ourselves of that feeling of pride after looking back at how much progress we’ve both made in the past few months?  I was really proud of what we both achieved and I won’t be ruining it by comparing myself to others.

I woke up on Sunday feeling like I’d been run over by a bus.  The best thing to do would be to have a relaxing rest day, maybe a bit of a walk and some gentle stretching.  Unfortunately I’d made plans to turn that ‘bit of a walk’ into run the Darwen Heritage half marathon.  Which is a bit hilly…..

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I had a feeling the race wasn’t going to go well when I went to collect my race number, dropped my t-shirt on the floor and couldn’t bend down to pick it back up.  Ah well.  It was a nice day for it, I knew it would be a gorgeous route and to be fair my legs were in a much better state than my shoulders!  Seriously though, I wasn’t injured, just very achey.  Don’t come crying to me if you’re also foolish enough to race when you can’t tie your own shoe laces!

I set off at what felt like a conservative pace and let my legs loosen up.  Surprisingly, as the first few uphill miles ticked by my legs felt better with every step.  I started to enjoy it.  Even though I’ve only run further than ten miles twice since October 2015 I was excited to see just what kind of time I might achieve (no – it’s not big or clever to be under trained for a race, but I’m being completely honest about my lack of mileage and making the point that you don’t always need to run yourself into the ground as long as you’re cross training and keeping your body strong).

hill

I loved the challenge of the hilly route and the support out on the course was incredible.  I found myself overtaking first lady at about half way and I genuinely couldn’t believe what was happening.  I started doing the old comparison trick.  Ooh I’m sure that lady’s faster than me.  She looks more comfortable.  Perhaps I should stay behind for a bit.  I bet I’ve gone off too fast.  I’m going to crash and burn at this rate.

And then I had a word with myself.  I listened to my body and it was telling me I had more to give.  I pushed on the gas a little and trundled on.  I won’t lie – once you’re in first place, no matter what pace you were aiming for that day, you’re probably not going to give it up without a fight!

From mile 11 it was all downhill to the finish and it was a wonderful feeling.  The aches and pains of the previous day were washed away with endorphins.  I grinned when I saw the finish line and they’d made a tape for me to break.  Best.  Feeling.  Ever. (Gun time – 1:32:46)

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Moral of the story – be your own hero! (Thanks Khara).  Stop turning round and fretting about what others are doing.  Yes, support and encourage everyone and be happy for them when they achieve a big milestone.  But don’t let it discourage you.  Don’t let it take away from your own satisfaction.  No matter how small, your victories are just that – your victories.  Be proud.  Be your own hero.

Photo credit: Paul Brown

Photo credit: Paul Brown