I can’t say that it was definitely the first time I said it, but I remember being at my first “real” trail race and buying some stuff. The woman I was buying it from asked me what I ran that day (the race had a 10k, half marathon, marathon, 50k, and 50 mile). My answer:
I just did the half
I didn’t think much of it at the time. But the more I run, the more I hear people compare themselves to others and the more I hear it. And when I hear it, it’s like nails on a chalkboard.
I’m JUST running a 5k. I’m ONLY doing the half marathon. My long run is JUST 8 miles.
Have we gotten so far from our beginnings as runners that we forget the first time we ran a mile and how AMAZING it felt? The first time I ran a 5k it was before dawn, in my neighborhood, and it took me 45 minutes. I felt like I had just climbed a mountain. In those predawn moments, I might have cried a little because I was amazed that I was even able to do such a thing.
I have to think that part of it is due to knowing too much. When I trained for my first marathon, I just knew that was the pinnacle of running and I was the king of everything. But then I heard about ultramarathons (races longer than 26.2 miles) and I was immediately knocked down a peg and in my mind maybe I lessened my own accomplishments a little.
But let’s think about races and running. Typically, there’s always going to be someone out there that can perform a little better than you, that can run a little farther than you, and there will ALWAYS be someone that can make it look a little easier than you. But does that make you less of a runner? Less of a person?
Why aren’t we celebrating what we CAN do?
I volunteered at a race last year that had a 5k, half marathon, and full marathon. I was at the finish line, handing out “stuff”. Each finisher got a hat with their race distance on it as they crossed the finish line (which is totally cool race directors, take note). So, throughout my shift I had lots of folks saying they didn’t get a hat and asking if I could get them one. And when I asked them what distance they ran, I got so many:
I just the 5k, I only did the half
Before I got each of them their hat, I would stop and say something like, “you ran 3 miles that’s amazing! Let me go grab that for you!” or “You ran a 13 miles? You’ve done plenty of work today, let me go grab that”. It was fantastic to see their faces soften with the recognition that even though they tried to belittle their accomplishment, a stranger could see what they had done and celebrate it.
So what’s the moral here? Celebrate what you’re able to do, duh. Sure, most of us have room for improvement, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be proud of what we did today and make it fuel for tomorrow.
And, if you hang out with me and use the words only or just to describe your mileage or your race distance, I will most likely punch you (lightly) in the arm and I expect you to do the same to me (but be warned, if you punch me hard, I will punch you back..... harder). Running isn’t easy and we should really be giving ourselves more credit when we do it. ANY of it.