I used to hate running. I couldn’t fathom how anybody could enjoy it. Unfortunately, as the child of two avid runners, I couldn’t escape it.
I whined my way through the holiday road races my parents signed me up for. When my mother sent me on “runs,” I only actually ran when a car drove by.
I also sometimes have a tendency to view my achievements based on those of others, a result of growing up in a competitive environment, surrounded by high-achieving people. Often, my own pride in an accomplishment is dampened because I compare it to how other people did or because I don’t receive the external praise I was hoping for.
I’ve realized these two things connect pretty closely.
In case you who haven’t picked up on it, I thoroughly enjoy running now. Practice is one of my favorite parts of the day. It’s a great break from stress and I enjoy being able to see personal progress in both races and workouts.
There are a number of factors involved in this mindset change, including two and a half years of injuries and a renewed determination to make my work worthwhile.
One of the things I’ve come to realize is that if I try to compare my own results with results of other people, I will never be satisfied. There is always going to be somebody better than I am.
For a long time, I hated running not just because it was hard, but because I was frustrated with the fact that I wasn’t able to do as well as my teammates. Even if I had a good workout or race for me, I couldn’t help but think, “But it’s so slow compared to them.” I looked toward others to validate myself.
Now, I’ve consciously shifted to instead competing with myself and growing from where I started. My mindset has changed from “Why am I not as good as them?” to “I am so much stronger than I was, and I am giving it my all.”
In cross country this past fall, coach Rustin Nyce asked us to find what keeps us coming back, to determine why it is that we continue to run. If it was based on impressing other people, it wasn’t enough. Those people won’t always be there.
Everyone comes from a different starting point with a different skill set. For me, I’ve spent years working on putting my achievements into perspective so I can better value my own progress, even with the little things, without trying to compare myself to others.
Because I appreciate my context and look for motivation within myself, each small goal I achieve is a lot more satisfying.
Obviously, not everyone can relate to my journey with running. But the overarching point here is applicable to most things: relying on outside forces to determine your success and happiness is never going to provide satisfaction.
It’s vital in a world that pushes for validation from others to step back and allow yourself to appreciate personal successes in your given context.