Let’s Ditch These Common Runner Comparisons

I want to talk more about comparison. In some instances, comparison can be helpful. If a runner is trying to hit a certain goal and can’t get there it may be helpful to compare training with a runner who has recently hit that goal. If a runner is training for a certain distance it can also be helpful to compare the average weekly mileage other runners are training at for that distance to ensure they are running enough, but also not overtraining. On a day to day basis, though, comparison is not likely to be very beneficial or helpful. I think that trying to do what others are doing to match their training rather than determining a well planned out training plan for an individual goal doesn’t allow us to grow as runners as we should.

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I don’t run with most of these people anymore. They’re too fast for me… and that’s okay.

One of the things I love about following running blogs is reading about runners of different abilities working towards the same goals in different ways. I follow many runners that race faster than me and many runners that race slower than me. It’s interesting to see what everyone is doing and what is or isn’t working for them. How fast someone races is not something that attracts or deters me from a blog. However, it’s very common for us runners to compare ourselves. There are a few common comparisons I see mentioned across the blogs I follow and I think it’s time we work on ditching these comparisons so we can focus on hitting our goals.

Average Run Pace
I’ve preached slow running many times now. At some point most of us runners are training too fast. Yet, there is still a stigma that comes with slower training paces that makes runners feel inadequate. Running slowly doesn’t mean racing slowly, but we still compare our average easy run pace to others. When did it become the norm to only be running 30 seconds slower than race pace? (In some cases training faster than race pace!) Switching to heart rate training helped me overcome pace comparison and I have enjoyed running so much more since I’ve slowed down. Be proud of your easy pace and take the time to enjoy those easy runs!

Average Weekly Mileage
There are suggested minimums that a runner should be hitting for certain distances that can easily be found with some basic Goole research. I think those guidelines are important to run a healthy and productive race, but beyond that what the heck does this matter?! Running as much mileage as we can just to say we ran more miles than everyone else that week isn’t really the most efficient training plan (and probably not the smartest, either). I think what’s more important is what we are doing with that mileage. Very experienced runners are going to run a lot more miles than less experienced runners. That doesn’t somehow make the less experienced runners not “real” runners. Again, it’s all about keeping that focus on what’s best for each of us individually. Running “experts” seem to agree that consistency is key so if running mileage that seems “low” compared to others allows consistent running week after week, then that will be way more productive than trying to hit a higher mileage and getting injured or burnt out.

Walking or Stopping During Runs
What I really want to write here is, “Seriously? What’s wrong with us? So what if we need to stop?” I don’t talk about it often because it’s not interesting or noteworthy, but I do often stop once or twice during my runs. Most of us do. I actually have tried to make it a habit to stop after my first mile and do some light stretching, but beyond that if a muscle is feeling tight I’ll stop and stretch. If my hair piled in a messy knot on the top of my head begins to fall, I’ll stop and fix it (I seriously can’t stand that. Side note: This is why I always have a french braid on race day!). Today I had to stop because a neighbor’s dog thought I was playing and began running down the street and I didn’t want him to get too far from his owner. There is a hill on my Sunday run that I always take a break at when I get to the top. It’s not a big deal. It doesn’t mean we’re not real runners. It doesn’t mean we’ll crash and burn on race day. Speed work is a time to push through those tough moments and not quit (yeah, don’t stop then okay?!), but none of us should feel guilty or inadequate for taking a break during an easy run.

Training Plans in General
When can we stop pretending there is only one right way to train for a race? It sometimes feels like we runners believe our way is the only way and that’s just simply not true. Just because someone is doing a different type of training plan doesn’t mean what you’re doing is wrong. Training schedules should be personal and based around what works for each of us. Running three 20 milers instead of maxing out at 16 miles? That’s okay. Doing speed work two times a week instead of running longer on the weekends? That’s okay, too. Eventually we all have to run our own race, so we shouldn’t be afraid of running our own training plan that works for us as individuals. I think a training plan should push you out of your comfort zone, but pushing yourself to keep up with someone else’s training plan and ending up injured or burnt out is just silly. Figuring out where the line is can be difficult, but once you know it, don’t let another runner make you feel inadequate for not doing what they’re doing. I didn’t follow the training plan given by my training group for my first marathon. In fact, I took on a training plan that had many reviews saying it “wasn’t enough” for a marathon, but it seemed right for me. I got to the start line healthy, had fun, and did just fine.

So as most of us are underway or about to begin training for our fall goal races, let’s not limit ourselves in training by falling victim to daily comparisons. Enjoy your runs, have fun, and remember that running should make you feel good about yourself.

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4 thoughts on “Let’s Ditch These Common Runner Comparisons

  1. PREACH IT SISTA!! I think running comparisons happen for the same reason all comparisons happen: keeping up with the Joneses and trying to seek validation for our own choices.

    I think it’s important to remember that natural ability plays a huge role, making comparisons even sillier. Some people have more natural running talent than others; some people really are just naturally fast. To see them hit our most impossible goals with relative ease while we work tirelessly to get there can understandably make us feel inadequate. Perspective, like running itself, takes time to get good at.

    I think your slow training rocks. You set such a great example by sticking to your guns and doing what’s right for you.

  2. Great post! Yes to all this! The biggest thing for me is paces. I think it’s not only comparing myself to others but to myself. I have many times looked back through my training log to compare my current paces to where I was a year or two ago, and then I feel bad about myself, like why does everyone else get faster and I don’t. And I know that bloggers totally don’t mean to make anyone feel bad, but when someone posts a marathon pace that is faster than I can run a single mile and say how slow it was and that they feel bad about it, it’s very hard not to feel pretty bad about my own paces. Because of that and other reasons, I’ve decided not to publicly share my goal time or training paces for my marathon training. I think doing so will put more pressure on me and make training into something I don’t want it to be. I’m doing this for personal fulfillment, and I refuse to be obsessed with paces during this training cycle!

    Not stopping or walking is another biggie for me. I always feel like a failure when I do. But trail running has helped me start getting over that because I definitely need to walk up and down steep hills.

    About weekly mileage and training plans, I have to say that I’ve gotten many more negative comments than positive about Hansons. A lot of people just do not like the idea of it. So I’ve seen more people looking at my training and being more happy and grateful for their own plan because they wouldn’t want to do my plan. I think understanding that everyone is so different and what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another is really the key.

    1. Similar to your trail running, my Sunday runs at one of our metro parks have become my favorite. The trail is hilly and mostly gravel/dirt so my focus is simply keeping my heart rate down. It has become so relaxing to not even think about pace whatsoever because in that setting it’s not about that at all.

      I think the thing that is cool about you taking on the Hanson’s plan is that you are working with a Hanson’s coach, so it’s not as if you’re just randomly pulling the plan from the book and going for it. You are going into it with a more individualized set up to make the Hanson’s method work for you.

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