Friday, July 12, 2019

Why Runners Shouldn't Play the Comparison Game

Last weekend, I worked packet pickup at a race I was running on Sunday. When I arrived for my shift, I sat down next to the other volunteer, a woman likely close to my age. She introduced herself and we chatted a bit, talking about running, naturally. She was literally off to the races, telling me about her accomplishments. As we talked, I started to feel a little annoyed. I mean who belongs to 3 running clubs?

She does.

Somehow, we started talking about Door County, that place in Wisconsin where I've vacationed since I was a little girl. She commented that she's going to do a century ride up there in September. It's really hilly there and I mentioned it. Oh, she already knew that. She's got that covered. She lives in a nearby town where there are tons of hills. I had to restrain myself from putting up my hand. Stop. Just stop.

Do you know anyone like this?



I understand that the comparison game she was playing said a great deal more about her and less about me. I completely disengaged after that conversation. Bemused by her need to promote herself, I realized that I had nothing to prove to her and I stopped talking. This conversation got me thinking, though. A few weeks ago, I posted a picture on Instagram of myself wearing this t-shirt:


There were a lot of comments on the post and most of them were supportive. There were a few that stated I shouldn't be wearing this shirt, that I'm not slow, that my slow is other people's fast, and that I hadn't 'earned' the shirt. I hadn't considered any of this when I bought the shirt. For me, the shirt validated that even though I'm slowing down, I could still be a runner. Who knew that there was a difference between slow and slower? And who would have thought I'd have to earn the shirt?

I guess I never actually realized that other runners would compare their paces to mine. As a runner and in the gym, I don't compare myself to other athletes. Sometimes to my detriment, I try to best myself in everything I do. I push myself hard and when I fail to meet my expectations, I get frustrated. This is probably why I'm struggling so much, mentally, with slowing down. I won't deny scoping out others in a race to determine if they are in my age group! But that's competition, not comparison.

Comparing ourselves to others is human nature, but it is not healthy. "Keeping up with the Joneses" is an old saying about comparing ourselves to our neighbors. I don't live my life like this--trust me, if you saw my house you'd know it's not the benchmark for the neighborhood. I wonder if comparison is the reason for such an increase in cheating in running. People are cheating like crazy to get into Boston. There was a recent story about a 70 year old runner who was exposed for cheating to claim a world marathon AG record, among other transgressions. He was found dead in the Los Angeles River last week. His death was ruled a suicide. He probably couldn't live with his lies once he was exposed.

Comparison is the reason I stopped posting my training stats on Instagram. Do you remember that app where you would post a picture and your distance and time? How do you feel when you see these posts? Do you look at their min/mile pace and compare it to yours? I used the app briefly but didn't want to be the yardstick that others used to measure up or down. Plus, as I aged I didn't care for those close up selfies. I dug back through my FB page and found a few photos from 2015 using the app. What I wouldn't give to have some of that speed again!

What was the name of this app?
Phot from March 2015
The funny thing is, in my younger years, I was never considered fast. Even in my 30s, I was always solidly in the middle-of-the-pack for my age group. My motivation for running races is always to beat myself rather than the other runners. While I won't deny that I enjoy winning AG awards now, it's more a factor of dwindling competition--fewer runners in my age group-- than me being fast.

I read an article about comparing ourselves to others and a quote from the article really resonated with me: comparison puts the focus on the wrong person. We should rejoice in others achievements and support them when they fail. But each of us is on our own journey here. By comparing yourself to other runners, you run the risk (pun intended) of robbing yourself of joy. Comparisons with others take time and energy that you can devote to your own accomplishments. Start tallying your successes. Be grateful for your runs and your races. Run your own race.

Why runners should run their own race and not play the comparison game /via @oldrunningmom #runchat #running 

Do you find yourself comparing yourself to other runners? Do you feel bad when you see other runners your age running faster than you? What motivates you to push yourself--other people's accomplishments or your own? 

I'm linking up with Fridays with Fairytales and Fitness.




39 comments :

  1. This is so funny.

    Last night I went to my first trail run. I went slow because it was wet and hilly. I met an old friend. My age. We ran together for a while and then I lost her. When I finished she yelled. I finally beat Darlene Cardillo. What? I was shocked. I guess she thought I was racing??

    So yes I hate the comparison game. It’s human nature I guess. So when someone who runs at an 11 min pace see someone at a 9 min pace saying they are slow, they get annoyed. Nothing personal.

    Btw. I used that same app. I stopped. I just post my miles. And pace for races but it’s for me and only me.

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    1. Wow. Trail runs are a whole other animal and yes, you do run slower. Aren't people something else?

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    2. Holy wow! You are the girl to beat, Darlene! :) This reminds me when I am at the gym, and you can just tell when the person next to you is trying to race you. lol

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  2. I think it's really hard NOT to fall into the comparison trap, although at the stage I'm at I know I'm not working for those paces and have to let.it.go. I used to use the FitSnap App all the time (that's what it is), and still use it sometimes, but I admit I am less thrilled about using it when I feel like my pace was "slow." Today at OTF I looked to see how fast the person on the TM next to me was going, but only because her footfalls were really loud and distracting!

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    1. Ha! I do think there can be a fine line between being competitive and comparing yourself to others. It's human nature to compare yourself to others but as I've gotten older, I've stopped doing that so much.

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  3. I’ve struggled, as you have, with slowing down. I tell myself how silly it is to compare myself with others who are younger and more fit. I do think social media has some part in this simply because it really gives people the opportunity to brag without seeming like they’re doing so. But I also think it’s part of the human condition and we need to make an intention not to measure ourselves against others, in running and in everything. There is always going to be someone who is faster, prettier, stronger, or who seems to have the perfect life. We need to remember that they also probably struggle with the same comparison game. I even struggle with comparing myself to my former Me, and I know you do to. (Don’t know why autocorrect capitalized me but I’ll go with it. 🤣 It’s just wasted energy that makes us feel bad about ourselves. Stop it! If only it were that easy.

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    1. I wanted to go down the social media path but that is really a whole other blog post. Or book...

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  4. Sadly people like your packet pickup mate are a dime a dozen. Out there to prove things to others to make themselves feel like "more". It's insecurity. As a coach it's really tiring when clients want to compete against me. That's so not what I'm there for.

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    1. I never thought that people would try to beat the coach. That is just so many degrees of wrong!

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  5. I went through much of my younger life comparing my body to other people's. This led to years of unhappiness. When I first started running, I knew nothing about paces and what was fast or slow. I was just happy running. Now w blogging and all the social media, it is kind of thrown in our face all the time. I like cheer people on when they run miles but I don't really need to see their paces.

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    1. Body image has always been an issue for me--I always wanted a flat stomach. Fitness really helped me accept my body. But you are right, social media makes it hard not to compare to other people.

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  6. I can honestly say I've never played the comparison game. I think it's because I never really cared that much. ( I know that sounds sad and makes me sound "less of a runner"), but I started running to spend time with family and have fun. Now somewhere along the way I ended up setting goals for myself and it has definitely boosted my self esteem to reach those goals.
    I did hear about the runner who was accused of cheating on the news. They showed a clip of him entering a race from a side street. Do you know anymore about those allegations? I would be curious how that would be explained.
    And Wendy, comparison or not, you continue to be an inspiration for all!

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    1. I actually think running helped me build more confidence but I've always tried to be sensitive to other peoples' insecurities. Sad to think that calling myself a slow runner brought on comparison. I never wanted that to happen!

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  7. Comparison is the thief of joy! I have gotten a lot better over the years at not comparing myself to other runners. We're all on our own journey and we all have different goals.

    I think the name of the app is WorkoutSnap. I actually still use it, but I just don't post any of my stats. I also stopped posting my stats on IG for a few different reasons, but primarily because I'm not a fast runner, I'm not a back of the pack runner - I'm just average, so I didn't think anyone would care about my pace, lol.

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  8. Never played the comparison game because the joke of the Black Knight Army became reality: every race a "victory", no matter the pace! The pleasure to share a day of sport, tourism and good food.
    Different situation when I was in the Navy Running Team where we had to enter the trials to become effective members

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    1. I love your Black Knight Army! Do you take virtual members?

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    2. Of course YES!!!! It would be a honour to have you as proud member of the invincible BKA!

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  9. Comparison is the thief of joy! I get so frustrated with myself when I look at people's paces on social media and inadvertently compare to myself now or in the past. I used to run really fast. Now I run pretty fast. I try to remind myself that people are showing their highlight reel and it's of no consequence to me how well others do. Like Marcia says "keep your eyes on your own paper."

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    1. You're one of the fastest runners I know! I would never imagine that you would even feel an ounce of insecurity. The hardest thing for me is slowing down and looking at how I was in the past.

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  10. I'm in your court for every word of this marvelous post. When I saw you in that photo Slow Runners Club shirt I thought exactly as you did. I would not dream of admonishing you for it...it actually never occurred to me.
    I never compared myself to others. I started to late to race, just ran.
    Regarding posting stats, I always see them as an opportunity to either cheer along and lament with the poster, not to try to "beat" them. When I posted my own pace, it was for the same reason, for my followers to know my progress, not to try to beat me.
    Whatever pace and distance you run, you are enjoying every step, even the hard ones, and that it what matters.
    Sending love and hugs from the East Coast.

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  11. I admit there are times I don't want to post my run to Strava. Thankfully I have a small following and no one points out how slow I am! My biggest trouble comes when I compare myself to myself. Menopause + a severe ankle sprain = a completely different runner from a few years ago. At the same time, I am becoming a better cyclist - I have no idea why but I'll take it!

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    1. I feel like a different runner from a year ago! What has happened to me? Oh, right. Menopause. RA.

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  12. I used to use that same app and stopped a few years ago because I found myself feeling like a "slow pogue" seeing other people's stats... and I didn't even realize I was doing it. But I was really surprised about the response you received to wearing the slow runners shirt. People are just too damn sensitive these days. Now you have to earn your "slowness"? Lordie have mercy.

    Angie

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  13. I stopped posting my run paces on my blog years ago because I was getting quite a few comments about how I was inspiring people to try running, and I didn't want them to compare their beginning runs to mine.

    Also, you really aren't a slow runner. You are slower (to yourself) but you do not belong to that club. ;)

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  14. I like the Garmin tag line: Beat yesterday. That's what I aim for, to beat MY yesterday if I can (and it doesn't harm me). Running is like yoga for me, I compare me to me :)

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    1. I love that quote, but sadly at my age, my yesterday was so much faster!

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  15. If I were motivated by AG awards or comparing myself to others, I would've hung up my running shoes a very long time ago. The only paces I post on my blog are my races -- that's partially for me, and partially for the other slower runners out there.

    I am happy for others when they win AG awards, but I have to admit -- it's very aggravating the way they usually deprecate themselves. Oh, there were only xyz in my AG. No, I'm not really fast. Yes, it depends on who shows up, but people who are routinely winning AG awards? Guess what -- you're fast! No, you'll probably never win a race or even come close, but you're still darn fast. It's the way females are raised, but I'd really rather see someone who was really excited about their awards, quite frankly.

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    1. I'm always excited about an age group award! So I'm just going to assume you're talking about other people...

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  16. "Comparison puts to focus on the wrong person," LOVE THAT quote! My coach group talked about Strava this week on our call and the comparison trap came up a lot. I know I'm guilty of comparing myself not just to other but to my former self. It's a toxic thing to do and I'm trying to get better. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I think it's hard not to compare ourselves at least to our former selves. It's been interesting for me because even though I've slowed down, I'm placing in my AG in races more often than I ever dreamed of. I'm not sure how I feel about that--but I'm going to ride the wave while it lasts!

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  17. Admittedly, I sometimes post a pic of my Garmin, but it's more for documenting the distance (of a race or long training run). I never really got into posting stats on my routine runs. I do post the stats on my blog, but that's usually only if it's a race recap because I try to keep it real (good races and tough ones as well). It's sad that people feel they have to sensor their achievements (or their disappointments) all for sake of not offending others. I get annoyed by the braggers, too. I respect that for some it's a big achievement to maintain certain pace or achieve a coveted finish time, and social may be their only "lime light" opportunity to showcase it.

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    1. It really is a fine line between sharing and bragging. As with everything we do, sharing paces should be in moderation.

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  18. Oh Boy, Where To Start?!?!?
    Maybe Here; I spoke with a third party to the conversation, we witnessed this gal going on and on with her topping us on every subject. When I made mention to the 3rd party, they responded with," don't take it personally, its just the way they communicate"
    They were right!! That lady wasn't necessarily comparing, just vomiting her way through the day.
    And we all do observe these types of folks in all aspects of our lives, racing, and classes. I choose to not subscribe, smile so they keep their own power, and seek out the best possible outcome. Enjoy The Rest Of Your Weekend And Keep Posting Those Photos.

    Stay Strong
    Cheers

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    1. I like your advice. We had a friend like the gal you mentioned; we nicknamed her 'Topper'. But your advice applies all those people who annoy.

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  19. When I first started running a friend decided to give it try too so we use to do a lot of our runs together. Until one day I overheard her telling one of our neighbors that she was faster than me - it had never occurred to me that we were in competition. Needless to say, I soon stopped running with her and just decided to do my own thing cause I realized running with her was sucking the joy out of it for me. It was an early lesson that's always stuck with me - for some people they can only feel good about their efforts if they feel like their besting someone else. For me it's always been about my own benchmarks.

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