Running has been something that I have enjoyed for years. I enjoy the fresh air, the time to think, and I love how I feel at the end. Even after only running half a mile I always feel like I can conquer anything. I typically run in the spring and fall since that's the best weather for running where I live. So this fall was no different. Once I feel the crisp air coming on I always get the urge to run again. This year has been particularly hard for me to get started because I have had a lazy summer when it comes to exercise. So this fall I made a goal to run 3-4 times each week.
A few weeks ago I was in beautiful Wyoming. I had had a rough night and didn't get much sleep. However, I needed to get in 1 more run for the week so I pulled myself together, got a good audio book started, and began my run. At the start of a run I always decide how far I will go because if I make a goal in the beginning I'm more likely to to run farther then if I just head out and start. That day my goal was to run to the end of the country road and back. It was 2.8 miles round trip and it was hard. The elevation there is much much higher than back home (over 6,000 ft) so I was pretty out of breath. One thing that kept me going was how beautiful it was. We were visiting my in-laws and they live right next to the mountains. So close that there are very few houses and little traffic on the road. The air is so fresh and I truly feel like I can just clear my head and think.
I finally got to the end of the road and when I turned around I noticed another runner had just left her home and was ahead of me about 500 yards and running the same direction as me. I was pretty exhausted by this point but still the first thing that popped into my head was, "maybe I can catch her?" At this point in my run I had a good pace going. I knew that with 1.4 miles left if I picked up my pace now to try and beat her I would burn out and have to stop and walk the rest of the way home. So I just kept my pace. At first it kind of bothered me that I wouldn't be able to pass her but then a thought popped into my mind.
Your goal was not to pass her, it was to run to the end of the road and back.
This was good motivation for me. I tried to forget about passing her and just focus on my run. I enjoyed breathing the clean mountain air, and listening to the audio book I had downloaded. I also thought about the fresh peaches at home I could cut into once I finished. My pace was strong and consistent and I noticed that I was gaining on the other runner without even really trying. About the time I noticed this there were 2 men walking toward me one yelled out as I passed, "If you hurry you can catch her." WHAT!! Even they were thinking that what I had set out to accomplish was not enough?
I just pointed out that catching her was not my goal and repeated to myself as I passed them. "Your goal is not to beat her, it is to run to the end of the road and back."
How often do we compare ourselves to others and how often to other compare us to others. As humans I feel like this is a pretty natural thing. I don't think its wrong to recognize where others are at in their journey as long as we remember that we are not competing against them. We are at a different place on the path and all we need to do is stick to our goals and keep our own pace.
Now I just have to point out that this is Wyoming that I'm running in! It is a small town with a population of 201 people and I was running on a back country road. It is pretty unusual to cross paths with anyone except maybe a farmer driving by on his 4-wheeler. So for me to have another runner ahead of me and to also have 2 older gentleman (farmers) walk past me, was very uncommon. I can't help but think that everyone was on that road that day to teach me a lesson.
I kept going and before long made it back to the house and just as I was hitting the driveway the other runner turned around to head back the other direction to finish her run. I went inside and couldn't help but think about what had just happened. I had accomplished my goal! I had ran 2.8 miles just like I had planned.
I think many times in life we get caught up trying to keep up with others, rather than just focusing on accomplishing the things that we set out to do. It's so essential to our happiness to not compare ourselves to others. There will always be someone else right in front of us in the race. And there will probably also be people who try to convince us that we need to catch up with them and "beat" them. We need to just keep our eye on the goals we've set for ourself and remember..."Your goal is not to beat her, it is to run to the end of the road and back."
I reached my goal that day and that is what was most important. I am so happy about that. In the grand scheme of things it does not matter one bit whether or not I passed the other runner that day. The only thing that matters is that I accomplished the thing I had set out to do. And I did!