What’s the longest run you have been able to complete? For me, it was about 14 miles. It was 14 miles oh about 20 years ago when I was much younger and had been running much more consistently. Did I mention I was also a lot younger? Nowadays my average mileage is usually between 4-6 on any given day. I am slowly trying to increase that as my next goal is to run that 10k (virtual) race that I have been eyeing for a few months now…which technically I could finish at this point but would like to do so with much less struggle and a much more respectable time. For all intents and purposes though, I am new to running again as it has probably been over 15 years since I really did it in any consistent manner. Although I consider myself a born again runner, I was still a little hesitant just now, maybe even a tad bit ashamed to tell you all that I have only been able to run 14 miles like once in my life and that right now I am only averaging 4-6. I even get a bit down on myself sometimes that I haven’t been able to progress more quickly to longer mileage and faster times since I started again several months back because, well, I want to be the best at everything I do even when being the best isn’t at all what I should be shooting for at all.
I am a pretty weird mix of overly self-confident and very hard on myself. I’m competitive to my core but probably more so with myself than other people. On a daily basis, however, I get on social media and see all the amazing accomplishments that people seem to be so easily achieving all around me and I can’t help but think, why am I not at that level? Why can’t I run, or jump or swim that fast? Why are my times so much slower and how are they making it look that damn easy?!? I try to follow people who inspire me. People that are true athletes, marathon runners, fitness influencers, and just all-around generally bad-ass people to maybe glean some tips and/or inspiration. While it is always great to aspire to be something more, I also have to constantly keep in mind that I am not them and that it is ok that my journey is different. Of the people I do follow, I am in especially in awe of all you amazing distance runners out there and especially you marathoners. To me, completing a marathon, heck even having the guts to train and then qualify for one is truly an amazing feat!
While again having goals and ambition is great, I am here today to remind myself and anyone else out there who may need to hear it that there is no shame in only being able to run for a few minutes before you need to take a break. There is no shame in only being able to make it a mile before you are done for the day. There is no shame in only making it 3 or 4 or 5 miles before your body is telling you it is maxed. And there is also no shame and going out and running 26.2 miles and letting everyone know because you are proud of your accomplishment and want to brag a little about it. Heck, I wouldn’t be able to stop bragging if I by some miracle was ever able to run that far!
The point is, there is always going to be someone faster, smarter, in better shape, and/or more successful out there than you are but for all of us newbies to the world of running, I want to just take a second to say, any and all effort is fantastic! Comparison can be a killer, you guys. It can threaten your happiness, your goals, your progress, and of course your self-esteem. How do we then, in a world where we are constantly reminded how amazing everyone else out there is doing, do we remember to be happy with where we are on our own journeys? For me there are a few keys ways I keep everything in perspective:
Set small, attainable goals…
For me, running a marathon has always sort of kind of been on my bucket list. The older I get, the more I attempt to run, the crazier and more unattainable that goal seems, but it is still something that I toy with trying to do. For now, though, I am focusing on my 10k goal. Before this 10k goal, I started way back last year just hoping to make it two miles without stopping. Once I accomplished that, my next goal was a 5k and here we are striving for a successful 10k run.
I figure if I tackle my running goals in shorter, more attainable mileage segments I might have a shot at working my way up to 26.2 one day… maybe. That is still very TBD but for right now, I need to learn to be happy with where I am and what progress I am making. Striving for too much too soon is a huge mistake a lot of us tend to make especially when we are just starting out on our health and fitness journeys. It is a sure-fire way to burnout and risk giving up altogether. Setting well thought out and manageable goals, especially in the beginning, will help you stay in the game for the long haul.
Let’s face it, I am not 15 years old anymore. I turned 40 this year and while I actually think I am pretty close to being in the best shape of my life, the fact remains, I am not 15 years old anymore. I don’t recover nearly as quickly. I am a heck of a lot sorer after a strenuous workout that I was in my younger days. It takes a lot more effort to keep the weight off and to put muscle on and I sure as heck can’t stay up till all hours of the night and look impossibly rested after only 3 hours of sleep like I used to be able to do.
All that being said, I still have goals. I might have to work a little harder to achieve them and they make take longer to achieve but I am ok with that and it kind of almost makes reaching them a little tiny bit sweeter. Being realistic about how much and how fast I can force on my body is something I have to keep in mind every single time I workout. I will never be as fast, as strong, or have the same endurance that other people out there have or honestly that I used to have, but I am happy accomplishing things I never thought I would be able to do myself…and that is enough!
The older I get and the longer I am on this health journey of mine the more grateful I am that I am in fact in fairly good health and that my body has responded as well as it has to my efforts to get fit. I was pretty rough on myself for a lot of years and was placing more of a priority on going out, being social, and partying than I was on taking care of myself.
Having finally wised up and honestly just have grown up quite a bit, I am amazed how quickly I was able to rebound and reverse a lot of the poor life choices I made in my youth. I am eternally grateful now each day when I wake up and open my eyes that I am even able to run any distance whatsoever and don’t for one-second take for granted that my body has held up over all the years and is now allowing me to push it in new, much healthier ways. I often keep in mind that there are others out there who would love to be able to even stand up and walk a few steps let alone getting out there and hitting the pavement for an early morning jog. Keeping gratitude at the forefront of my mind makes achieving bigger and better goals so much sweeter and more meaningful!
I may never achieve that distant goal of running a marathon and that is ok, but I am going to try my hardest to continue progressing my speed and mileage for as long as my body will allow it! I know that I am trying. I know I am dedicated. I know when that alarm goes off an hour earlier than I would like it for my morning run, it is because I am committed to my goals and nothing is going to stand in my way. I know that no matter if I ever run further than that 14 miles, I did oh so long ago, I should be proud of even trying! So this is a big congrats to everyone else out there trying as well! You really have already accomplished so much just by making that decision to lace up your shoes and getting that run, no matter who far or how fast, done! Keep on keeping on, enjoy the process, and happy running!