Find An Alternate Route: How To Avoid The Comparison Trap In Your Running

Jay Welch At The Start Line Of The Asheville Marathon March 2024 (He Received His First Ever DNF At This Race)

Picture this. It’s Saturday morning and you lace up your favorite pair of running shoes as you step outside your front door. It’s a nice 55-degree day and your body and mind are feeling great. You take off on your long run full of excitement and energy. A couple of hours later you return home spent. You feel exhausted in the best kind of way. You gave it your all and you crushed it. You are riding the infamous runner’s high as you walk through your front door. Then, you open Strava.

All at once it hits you. Those familiar feelings of frustration, envy, and insecurity. “I guess my run wasn’t that great”, you’re tempted to tell yourself, “I didn’t run (*insert arbitrary mile time here*) pace. “I’ll never be as good as ______”, you think, “I may as well not even post this. It’s embarrassing when you look at their runs.” “What am I even doing? I’m kidding myself. I’m not a real runner.”

Any of this sound familiar? I hope it doesn’t. But on the off chance that it resonates, this article is for you.

First off, you need to understand the following. IF YOU RUN, YOU ARE A RUNNER. I run into so many folks, especially those newer to the sport who think or say out loud, “I’m not a real runner because I… don’t run marathons/am not as fast as you/haven’t been doing it long enough/don’t know what I’m doing.” These and other negative thoughts have NO place in your running journey. No matter where you are on this road, as soon as you go on your first run you are a runner. I emphasize this here because no amount of tactics or “tricks” will be able to help you if you don’t first address the root of the issue: your identity. So, repeat after me, “I AM A RUNNER.”

Now that we’ve cleared that up, I am going to give you 3 tips for avoiding the comparison trap in your running. The first tip is simple and can be done whether you’ve been running for 30 seconds or 30 years.

TIP #1: Reflect On How Far You’ve Come, Not How Far You Think You Have To Go.

Do this early and often and it can help to keep the comparison beast away. You may not be at a point where you are effortlessly running marathons or winning your age group in races yet BUT you are still setting Personal Bests. If it’s your first run, congratulations you just set a personal best! You went from being a non-runner to a runner and that is worth celebrating. Each time you go out remind yourself how much better you are for making the decision to lace up and pursue your goals. Who cares what everyone else is doing, you’re winning and that’s what matters.

TIP #2: Run With Others

Humans were created to thrive in community with each other. Something special happens when we get around other people who care about us and are pursuing similar goals. We come alive. While it may be scary, especially when you’re starting out, joining in on regular group runs can increase your motivation and help you improve over time. Plus, when you get around runners who have been at it for a while, you’ll typically hear some very encouraging and often hilarious blunder stories that will leave you thinking, “at least I’ve never done THAT.” This is a gift you can also pass on to others as you grow in your running journey.

TIP #3: Get Off Strava

Some folks may hate me for even hinting at this. After all, if it’s not on Strava does the run even count? Good news, it does! If you’re really struggling with comparing yourself to other runners, this is the FIRST thing I’d recommend. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be forever. Just take a break for 30 days. Sometimes when you don’t have all of that extra information coming in, you’ll find that you’re better able to appreciate your own progress. You can still cheer other runners on when you see them but not being able to obsess over their splits can be a huge blessing.

I hope you found these tips helpful. If you or another runner you know is struggling with this trap of comparison, just know you’re not alone. When in doubt, remember to practice self-acceptance and be kind and honest with where you currently are. Then remind yourself of all the great things you’ve already accomplished and use them to fuel your future runs because, as I’ve stated earlier: YOU ARE A RUNNER!

Jay Welch At Mile 10 Of The Asheville Marathon March 2024