Yesterday I ran my 5th 5k race. When you go to one of these races you see many different people from all age groups...but MOST of them are in better physical shape than me...by the way they look anyway. It can be unnerving to look around at the very fit-looking people and try to compare yourself to them. Because so much of running and really anything athletic can be mental, it is so important not to get worked up 15 mins before the race thinking..."I can't do this. Look at all of these skinny people." It remains paramount to focus solely on the outcome, the results, and not the looks of things. Because looks can be deceiving.
I had a goal yesterday - to beat my 5k time from October (40:04). If I made it under 38 minutes I would be happy. I also set a stretch goal for fun, of under 36 minutes for the 3.1 miles.
I experienced that same down feeling I have at the beginning of every race when I look around and start doing comparisons in my mind where I wish I had never signed up for this thing - here was my mental gibberish from yesterday.
"I wonder if she's in my age group - gosh I hope not. Wow, is that guy 75 years old? How embarrassing when he passes me! How fat do I look right now? I'll bet everyone is looking at me and thinking, we'll see her in 50 minutes! Wow, that girl has no shoes at all...really? And that guy there is wearing converse? And he clearly pronates - get that kid a running shoe!"
So I go from comparing myself to other people with the negative light on me to then picking on other people in my mind...more from concern for them than anything else - I mean that kid really didn't need to be running in converse...seriously.
At the end of the day the comparisons mean NOTHING! Not a thing. All they do is unnerve you, make you unsure of how you will perform and you begin to lose ground in the mental game before your foot hits the pavement.
The race was hard. Every race is hard. It was foggy and humid, not a good combination. I had stomach/gi issues probably from all the travel the 24 hours preceding the race. And I was easily the fattest runner out there.
So hard physically, and hard mentally before the starting horn.
That's alot of cards stacked against me.
But who is dealing the cards anyway?
For starters, I ended up beating my stretch goal. My 5k race time was 35:40. That is a full 4 minutes and 24 seconds faster than my race in October. Did you hear that? 4:24 faster! In less than 6 months of training.
For further comparison, here are all of my 5k times:
June 12, 2010 = 45:25 (some walking)
June 26, 2010 = 44:27 (all running....slowly)
September 18, 2010 = 42:27 (some walking)
October 16, 2010 = 40:04 (all running)
April 9, 2011 = 35:40 (all running)
So, I have cut almost 10 minutes from my 5k time of less than a year ago.
Who do I think I am comparing myself to other people at the race when I'm a walking billboard for amazing statistical and physical achievement in the last 20 months? Sure, if you look at all 197 pounds of me not a person at that race (except my awesome friend Jen who ran it as well) know my story.
No one there could tell by looking at me that just 2 short years ago I couldn't give my daughter a bath because bending over was so painful for me. That I hated eating in public as I knew people were staring at me. That I would rather hide and eat in my car than around other people. That I would sit on my bed and cry when nothing in my closet looked good on me. That walking out to my car or the mailbox was a feat that inspired rest breaks. That my resting heart rate was 117. And I was facing cholesterol medication at the age of 30.
They don't know that about me. But I do.
So I learned an important lesson during that 35 minutes yesterday. A very simple thing, and yet something so poignant that I will carry it with me for the rest of this journey.
The only person I should be comparing myself to is.....ME.
Going forward, I will only compare myself to my own accomplishments and capabilities. I won't use that new measurement as a way to let myself make excuses for poor performance...not at all...but rather a true measurement of where I am and how I've done compared to what I have proven I'm capable of.
Which I'm thinking right now, is more than I've given myself credit for.
I'm down 88 pounds. In just 12 pounds I'll be a member of the 100 pounds lost club. I'm picking back up on my 10k training and plan to run one in the fall. I've got goals! And just like the one from this weekend, I fully intend to reach them.
If you're stuck in a rut of comparing yourself to others I urge you to think about changing that behavior today. The only loser in that kind of comparison is you.
I know that because yesterday, before that race, I was a loser.
And today I'm a winner.
How's that for comparison?