The other day, I read an excellent piece by Autumn Howard, aka TinyRunner. She’s easily one of my top three running peoples1 and writes one of the few blogs that I follow religiously2. The title of the post was “Comparison is the Thief of Joy” and you can (and should) read the full thing here. Quite rightly, she’s says that running should be all about having fun and challenging yourself, rather than falling into the trap of comparing yourself to others. It reminded me of the Ernest Hemingway quote: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man. True nobility is being superior to your former self”, which would look great on a poster of someone climbing a big mountain or punching a crocodile in the face.
I’ve always been a slave to comparison, and it’s something that has dogged me ever since I started running. My internal critic is forever bemoaning the fact that X is so much faster than me despite only starting running a few weeks ago, or that Y can run further than I ever could, despite being just 18 months old and having her shoes on the wrong way round.
I’ve tried to ignore what others are doing and instead just focus on my own achievements. But, for me, ignoring this compulsion to compare is like trying to ignore the knife-wielding clown who’s sharing your toilet cubicle. This is one of the worst times of the year for a chronic compareaholic (real word), as you can’t move without bumping into old school mates who’ve never run before in their lives yet have just bagged a sub-3 VLM finish, fuelled only by kebabs and nonchalance. The bastards.
But I’m not one to moan and grumble without ending on a positive note (okay, I am, but not right at this particular moment). The other morning I was out for a nice brisk tempo run; 10k of comfortable-but-not-comfortable plodding at speeds just shy of race pace. Well, I thought it was brisk, right up until a blur came past me at the approximate speed of a cheetah on a stolen jet ski. We raised our hands in a vague greeting and I said a cheery “Morning”, but by the time I’d got to the second N he was disappearing into the distance. The man was a racehorse3 and I was more than a little bit in awe. His pace was effortless, serene, efficient, but also teeth-bleedingly fast. There was nothing spare on the man; everything was part of the engine, and his quads bulged like he was smuggling pineapples down the sides of his running tights.
(I risked a glance over my shoulder, just in case, but couldn’t see any irate greengrocers in hot pursuit, so I was happy to stick with the analogy).
The thing about this little encounter, was that the usual compulsion to compare was nowhere to be found. That sort of running could only come as the result of a shitload of dedication and hard work. This chap was just getting a return on his investment, and it occurred to me that I do spend a lot of my time trying to boost my performance purely by good intentions (“what do you mean I haven’t run a personal best? I read a whole article about kale last week!”)
But it was a nice feeling, and made me realise that I don’t always have to be a slave to comparison.
Most of the time, yes, but not always.
1 Eddie Izzard and Susie Chan, since you ask. Brian Blessed comes a close fourth.
2 By which I mean I like it. I’m not saying I only read it on Sundays, while a man in a dress gives me wine and biscuits. Although that would be lovely.
3 Not literally, or I would have said “the racehorse was a racehorse” , and that’s just weird.
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BIT AT THE END WITH LINKS AND STUFF.
Hello nice blog-reading person. That’s an ace jumper you’re wearing. Really brings out the colour of your ears. Anyway, cards on the table, there are actually only two people who read this blog: You, and some Swedish bloke called Bjorn Frijmagnet. It’d be great if you could spread the word and share some links to your favourite posts on the Facebookses or the twitters. Or maybe you could scrawl “born to plod = ace” on a bedsheet and tie it to a busy roundabout. The Internet has promised me a basket of kittens for every million hits I get, and I’m hoping to get enough to start a farm. Ta.