Haters gon’ hate, but I’ll own it: I’m a big fan (and believer) of inspirational quotes. They are incredibly effective at improving my mood and boosting my motivation. Running quotes cover the whole gamut from snarky, cynical quips that challenge me to push myself, to uplifting, affirming statements of encouragement (best pictured against a backdrop of sunshine, daisies (Daizies), and rainbows. Maybe even a unicorn). I love them. I bookmark them online. I write them down. I think about them when I hit the long, dark teatime of a run.
There are a TON of quotes about competition in running (most of which I have on reserve for later reflections and blog posts). I love these quotes not only because they are inspirational, but also because they emphasize the idea that the competitive aspect of running is against yourself, not other runners. Granted, there is a small segment of runners that do actually run competitively and actively seek to finish ahead of other runners. They exist in some alternate reality as they pass me in a blur on the way to the finish line. I’m a bit more on par with all the other weekend warriors that pound the pavement (or trails) fighting fierce mental and physical battles for entirely personal reasons.
Many of these quotes focus on celebrating incremental improvements in self from one day to the next and taking heart in becoming better than you were the day before. On the surface, I love that idea. It reminds me that my journey is mine alone, and comparing myself to somebody else’s PR is an entirely arbitrary (and invalid) judgment of my personal progress.
What I don’t like about that sentiment is that sometimes I was better yesterday than I am today. Well, to be more accurate, I was better quite a few yesterdays ago than I am today (I’m thinking specifically of the Gallop and Gorge 8k turkey trot, where my average race pace was more than a full minute slower this year compared to last year). It’s not always fair to compare myself to a past version of myself because 1) it is still a comparison and 2) it doesn’t always help to define my current reality. When I feel kinda bummed that I’m not currently running at a Boston-qualifying pace (and there are many days I feel kinda bummed about it), looking back at my past self and performance doesn’t help me to see what is currently going well with my running. Focusing on the disparity not only makes me feel frustrated and impatient, but also defeats the purpose of why I run in the first place – because I love running. Running doesn’t bring me quite as much enjoyment when I don’t feel all warm and fuzzy about it.
In situations like this, I find myself walking the narrow line between acceptance and betterment (not that I walk this line often, but occasionally I try). Constantly striving to improve my performance means never being satisfied with everything I am currently capable of. Sure, there is always room for improvement, but there is also always the opportunity to celebrate achievements. On the other hand, acceptance feels like resignation, defeat. Those feelings hardly offer motivation for running, much less pushing my limits. Walking the line between the two means it’s not one or the other – I need both. To improve myself, I must accept where I am now. In the meantime, I’ll try to celebrate every little victory as if it were another BQ. That being said, cheers to managing a sub-8 pace at the Gallop and Gorge this year, which means I beat my goal time by 21 seconds!