How many times have these thoughts crossed your mind? “I can’t run with her – she’s faster than me.” “I wish I could run in cute shorts like her! She is so much skinnier than me.” “We’ve done all the same workouts, why did she PR and I didn’t?”
And sometimes we’re not putting ourselves down, but thinking things like “I’m better than her because I run full marathons, she only runs halves.” “I’m such a better runner than she ever will be.”
And the list goes on and on.
We’re compared to others as babies and it continues through the rest of our lives. We get ranked in school, graded on a curve, told not to act like the bad kids. As adults, it’s hard to avoid getting stuck in the comparison trap and we spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to other runners, coworkers, friends and even strangers we interact with.
As runners, comparisons are everywhere. We’re ranked by age group and gender placements. We’re put in corrals at race starts based on our previous or estimated performances. We only attend group runs with runners of similar pace. It gets old after a while, and to be honest, I’m sick of people telling me that I’m a better runner than they are because I run more miles in a week or being afraid to run with a local group because I think it’s full of better runners than I.
So how do we break out of the comparison trap?
Remember that we all start somewhere. That woman you run with who always pushes the pace and consistently places in races? She didn’t start out that way! Remember, it took hard work to get to where you are now, the same way it took that woman in your running group to get where she is. We’re all human and we all have to put in the work to get good results.
Make a list of your achievements. During my most recent training cycle, I was having a hard time not comparing my training to a friend of mine who is also running the same race as his first 100. One day when I was feeling a little down and thinking I wasn’t running nearly enough, I sat down and made a list of all of the running achievements I’ve made since I started running four years ago. Seeing it all at once and on paper really put it into perspective and reminded me of the work I’ve done and the amazing memories I have since I began running.
Run your own race. This is so important, especially in longer distance running. When I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2011, I started with a friend that wanted to run around a 4:15 marathon. Within the first few miles, he got increasingly frustrated that a woman who was race walking was ahead of him. Instead of not worrying about her or anyone else around him, he pushed the pace and eventually bonked, finishing the marathon in about five hours.
The only runner you have to be better than is yourself! The only person that can get you up in the morning for a training run and get you to the finish line is you! You only have to be better than your last race or your last training run. By adopting an attitude where you’re only competing against yourself, every race and every run’s outcome will be a win, no matter what your time or place.
Do you find yourself comparing your running to others? Has doing so ever psyched you out? How do you avoid it?