Part of me balked at the invitation. I hadn’t done a group run in some time and after a week and half down with illness and life issues I wasn’t sure I wanted to subject myself to the possible disappointment of running with other people. Granted, they were just two other people. And both were my friends. But both of them were faster than me on a good day. This was not going to be one of my better running days.
Let me take you back to past group runs where I fell behind. I was all by myself in last place so to speak. My friends were up ahead. They would stop and double back to check on me from time to time, but I’d feel left out. They were up there chatting away and laughing. I was back here, huffing and puffing. Soon, the negative committee decided to hold a gremlin convention in my head explaining to me how much I suck and questioning my right to lace up running shoes in the first place. I would finish my run but be spent for the rest of the day as I wasted so much energy feeling like crap about myself.
This time, I approached my run differently. I was doing my workout — an easy paced six-mile run. That easy pace, by the way, was my easy pace, which is slower than my friends’ easy pace. And that’s OK. Because this is where I am at. And I can’t get to where I want to be if I am denial about where I am starting. Furthermore, where I am right now? It’s where I need to be. And it’s not such a bad place.
The run played out just as Sue predicted with the three of us running in a stretched out line as we each stayed true to our own workout. I kept tabs on my pace and felt good, which was the purpose of the longer run. I was content with where I was at. It was only in Mile 5 where I started to grumble as we turned on a road that was a relentless uphill. Grumble. Grumble. I suck. Grumble. But instead of following the train of thought of how difficult the hill was with a bit of jealousy about how easy the other two made it look, I took a mental step back and noticed my thoughts. This was a challenging part of the run. My mind decided to play the comparison game. For the comparison game to work, the mind needs to make all kinds of assumptions, in this case that the hill was super easy for my friends and difficult for me. Was that true? Nope. It was difficult for them, too. The run became harder for me when I started to compare myself to others. And by harder I don’t mean challenging and stretching the limits of my comfort zone. I mean it became drudgery. And who wants to experience that?
At the top of the hill I shook out my arms and metaphorically shook out my thoughts. When I didn’t compare myself to my friends, my run felt fine and free even as I was at the back of the pack. When comparison crept into my thoughts, I became jealous, envious and disgruntled.
What I’m learning is how to share the activity (be it run, hike, writing process) without having other people’s views, skills or expectations impact my own experience. Others can share their ideas, inspiration and motivation with me, but it’s not for me to replicate. Rather, it is to take what strikes me as interesting, try it out and make it my own. We are each on our own unique journey. We can share celebrations and commiserations. We can help each other up and inspire each other to move a bit further forward. But at the end of the day, we each have the responsibility to be fiercely and fearlessly ourselves. The world needs each of us as we are and as we grow into being. Not as what we think we are in comparison to someone else.