If there were a job that required endlessly reading running blogs hour after hour, I can guarantee I would be one of the most qualified applicants. (And if such a job exists, tell me about it ASAP.)
I adore running blogs. In fact, I no longer go to Facebook or Twitter as my main procrastination resource, I go straight to different running blogs. If the IT department at my job could track my random non-work internet perusing, they would notice a very distinct trend. It’s all about running.
It was, in fact, my discovery of running blogs that inspired me to start my own. Of course I have my own personal reasons for having my blog, but a big factor was my desire to be a part of this community of women who were so much like me.
When I first started finding these blogs, it was like all of a sudden I found “my people.” People that didn’t make me feel like a huge running-obsessed weirdo. People who thought the same way I did, people who acted the same way I did, and (perhaps my favorite thing) people who had advice and ideas of all things related to running.
Having a blog myself has been a great way to be involved in this blogging community, and I truly love being able to follow others’ training along with my own. I am starting to realize, however, that despite how much I love this form of networking and interaction, there’s a definite trap that can happen. It’s a trap that I don’t think many people recognize because this is such a supportive, engaged, and happy community. I myself didn’t realize I had fallen victim to it until very recently, and ever since it’s become more and more obvious.
This trap I’m talking about is the one where you read blog after blog of super fast, never-injured, ultra-running, record-breaking, age group winning runners—and inevitably you wonder, why isn’t that me?
I’m recognizing that while running blogs are indeed inspiring and uplifting, they can sometimes have the opposite effect of provoking the comparison game. Runners of all different levels have blogs, and I read a little of everything, but I also know that I tend to check in quite frequently with runners that are much better than me. This is not to say that I don’t respect, love, or stalk the heck out of people who are more on my level, I don’t want it to sound like that at all. But there’s something fascinating and motivating for me to read about girls who are crazy fast.
I think there is a huge advantage to reading about people who are at a higher level than you. It’s why there are so many books written by professionals for amateurs on various topics; they inspire us to dream of a level above where we’re currently at.
The best part about running bloggers is that most aren’t sponsored or professional athletes—they’re regular people, just like us. Regular people who happen to be great at the sport, meaning they make that higher level seem more accessible than, say, Kara Goucher can. Sorry K, I’m never going to run a 2:24 marathon, I can admit that.
So while this kind of inspiration may help our dreams seem more feasible, I think it can be a slippery slope between feeling motivated and feeling inferior. Maybe it’s just me and my uber competitive self, who knows, but I think that generally when we pay too much attention to the successes of others, it can take away from our own.
It’s as if the fast bloggers/runners we follow become a standard of sorts, and instead of using our own abilities as a benchmark, we start to compare ourselves to all of “them.” I started noticing this about myself when I speak to people outside of the running community about various races I’ve done and my speed in those races. Truly, I know running and running races is something to be proud of, and I am, but I’ve realized that the reaction I get from other people is not a reflection of how I feel about myself.
In other words, while most people are blown away by the mere attempt at a half- or full marathon, I’m normally completely absorbed in how fast or slow or strong the race was, not simply finishing it.
I’m not blaming anyone but myself for this, but I think one of the biggest reasons my mindset has fallen victim to analyzing the specifics instead of looking at the picture is because I’m in the running blog trap. I’m constantly seeing times, distances, splits, etc. that are, at least to me, much more impressive than mine—and while I try to remember that it’s all relative, sometimes I can’t help feeling sub-par.
Again, it may be just me, but I’m bringing this up because if there’s one thing I know about the running blogging community—it’s that we love numbers, race reports, PRs, and finish times. My most viewed posts are always my race reports, and I love whenever another blogger puts up a report of whatever it is they’ve been training for.Some might call it voyeuristic (isn’t that what blogging is about though?), but I think it’s exciting and inspiring to read about the grand finale of our training: race day.
It’s through this kind of attention to someone else’s running experiences, though, that demonstrates how easy it is to start comparing our own stats.
Upon realizing that I’d become a bit too entrenched in this running blog trap, I’ve made an effort to—as the oh-so-wise Nicole puts it—keep my eyes on my own paper. The fact that some random blogger who a) I’ve never met and b)probably never will meet can run a 3:00 marathon does not take anything away from my own current marathon PR. Using the times of runners who are more experienced than me as my own personal standard for what’s “good” is completely setting myself for disappointment. And not only that—it’s taking away from my own experiences that I should, in fact, be very proud of.
This is so true in much of life—but I think it’s easy to forget: the accomplishments of others do not take anything away from our own accomplishments. By learning this through running, and by being in the running community, I’ve been able to find (admittedly) many areas of my life where this comparison trap occurs. By keeping our eyes on our own paper, we are not only able to maintain a good sense of relativity, but we can begin to centralize our focus on our own goals, achievements, and areas for improvement as opposed to dwelling on those of others.
I encourage running bloggers, and everyone else, to continue to use the successes of others as inspiration. Educating ourselves with success stories of feats that otherwise seem impossible are a powerful way to jump start our own journeys. But remember that those accomplishments belong to someone else, and while they should be celebrated—they in no way take away from our own.
When you look at your own paper, whether it be a list of PRs, a resume, or an essay—take ownership for all the work and effort that was put into it. Because it is all worthy of admiration—no matter what “level” you think you’re at.
And let’s face it…in a country with an obesity epidemic on the rise and people who prefer segways to walking tours—the ability to run at all is something to be damn proud of.
What do you think about ‘the running blog trap?’ Have you fallen victim to it? Why do you think we’re so susceptible to playing the comparison game? Is it a simply an athlete thing, or is it in our nature?