Friday, September 3, 2010

You ARE Fast Enough For You

In my day job as a pediatric endocrinologist, one of my professional responsibilities is to evaluate and manage kids with short stature. In a given week, although there are many patients that come to my office with a growth problem as their chief complaint, surprising few have a clearly defined medical condition that causes short stature. No clear etiology exists for the majority of these children. Without a clear diagnosis, it is often hard to justify treatment unless the kid is severely short. But how short is considered "too short" to warrant treatment? For many reasons, the answer isn't always so clear. What is "short" for one child in one family wouldn't be "short" for the same child in another family. Moreover, some kids who have always been labeled as "short" aren't really all that short once they finish growing. Some of them who were once considered "short" as children are now taller than me! This is precisely the reason why I often hesitate to put labels such as short (or tall) in the medical record of children who are still growing. These terms create biases that may not be clinically warranted and in many cases are subject to personal interpretation.

In thinking about running these days, I perceive speed in much the same way. Although I know in relation to me what's fast and what's slow, I really have no clue how those terms would translate to somebody else. Because speed is so relative and everyone is by default faster or slower than somebody else, I learned early on not to alter my perception of my own speed based on the performance of others. In my mind this is a pointless exercise because in the end my main competition is really only against myself and what someone else does in their training or racing really has no bearing on me.

Over the past several weeks, I've told by several newer runners that my speed in training "intimidates" them. I've been told that because I run so fast and so far they in turn feel as if their running and training is insufficient or inadequate. They feel varying degrees of shame because they often "see" me lapping them in a theoretical race when they are running and training outside on a daily basis. As you can imagine, this news comes as a huge shock to me. To learn that I've caused others to negatively view their own training is extremely upsetting to me. I can't imagine why anyone would use me as their benchmark to assess their own speed or fitness. First of all, in a global sense, I am not really all that fast - never been, probably never will be. Second of all, why does it matter anyway? Although I initially tried hard to perceive myself through the prism of another set of eyes to gain perspective, I eventually came to the conclusion that this is ludicrous to me and not something that I can ever full appreciate. The thing is, we are all unique and come to this sport from entirely different backgrounds and talent. Also, our experience and training are not at the same level. Most of the people who make these comparisons are just starting out in this sport. I'd argue that they have not yet learned what fast or slow (for them) really means. It would be like a child telling me that I'm really tall when I'm just 5'6" (or 5'7" if I cheat a little bit). From my perspective, it is wrong and often detrimental to think "Wow that guy is fast so I must be slow" or "I'm never fast enough for anything so I must suck!" Instead, what you should be thinking is "Wow, I ran 4 miles, 4 city blocks, or 4 light poles...something I couldn't do 6 months, 6 years, or 6 decades ago.." or "Wow, I'm running 30 secs/mile faster than I did when I started running...that's really cool!" If you can look inwardly and concentrate on your own journey and successes along the way instead of comparing yourself against the barometer of others you will always be fast enough for YOU! Enjoy and revel in YOUR OWN speed because just as surely as you are impressed by what you see in me, there is another who is impressed by what YOU do as well (even if that may not be so apparent right now)!

So run YOUR OWN pace, enjoy YOUR OWN race, set YOUR OWN goals and don't let me or anyone else dictate YOUR OWN awesomeness!

18 comments:

Paula said...

I enjoyed this post for several reasons! First, my husband as a kid was evaluated to see if some type of growth-stimulating drugs were needed - he graduated high school at a height of an average
6th grader but did eventually make it to 5'6" so that topic sounded familiar. But on to the running --you make some REALLY important points. I am a slow runner, no two ways about it. When I chose a goal, though, I chose to try to run faster (a sub 30:00 5K) instead of longer (like a marathon). It is going to be much harder to get fast than it would be to go longer, for me personally. I have been at it for 18 months and my fastest 5K was a 34:27. Now I have injured myself doing turnover drills so am finding myself at what I imagine will turn out to be one of the seminal moments of this journey. But it does fascinate me endlessly to hear members of my running club talk about doing "just a 9 minute pace"! Yeah right! Sign me up for that one. Great post and thanks for sharing.

bobbi said...

I love this post - thanks so much from a back-of-the-packer...sometimes it's nice to be reminded that the only times I need to work on beating are my own.

Laura said...

Lam, do you mean people who physically see you running feel inadequate? Or people who read your blog and see your times?

I can see how your times might be intimidating - they're certainly a lot faster than what I run! However, anyone who is comparing themselves to you is missing out on the whole spirit of running. Unless you are one of a VERY elite few, there are always going to be people who are faster. To me, the accomplishment isn't in winning an award, but pushing myself beyond my personal limits (which is what I did with my whole marathoning in 50 states thing). I think I won two or three age group awards out of 55 marathons - definitely not the fastest one on the course! But no one who runs a marathon is a loser - we all get a medal at the end because it's all about pushing yourself to do YOUR best.

Whether you're doing a marathon or a 5K or a practice 1 mile run though, it's pointless to compare yourself to others. Hope everyone can realize the wisdom of what you pointed out!

Nicki said...

This is so true! I am thinking about having my two youngest - 19 and 16 - read it. They are constantly still comparing themselves to others in all kinds of areas.

We are all individuals and have our own speeds, heights, strengths.

Spike said...

Run your own speed, never worry about others. Amen.

Have a great weekend.

Julie said...

Amen! Nicely written Lam! I am always comparing myself to other better runners! Sometimes I get down on myself but then remember that they are not me:)

I hope that you have a fabulous weekend:) Do something fun! Take care Lam!

Kimberly said...

Hit the nail on the head! I remember reading posts from bloggers - including you - with paces that seemed out of this world. Instead of letting them intimidate me, I let them inspire me. I might not ever run "fast" but I am running faster than I did last year. Heck. I'm running and that's what matters.

Her Name is Rio said...

I'll second that post!

runner26 said...

well said!!! i loved this post lam! it is a shame that some people are intimidated by your speed and feel inadequate. i have a feeling those same folks would feel inadequate no matter what. it's best to be able to think realistically about your talents and push yourself to the best of your ability without letting what everyone else is doing affect you. this attitude is something i try to demonstrate in my classroom and pass on to my students.

lindsay said...

i'm still 'learning' this myself, but i am better at not-comparing myself to others. aron had a good quote once - something about the competition is with yourself, not with the others in the race.

however, while everyone else on the planet seems to notice a drop in their average pace i swear i am the only one who hasn't! sure my pr's have dropped over time but my easy pace seems to still be the same as it was at least 4 years ago, not sure where it stands compared to high school cross country ~10 yrs ago.

DumpRunner Matt said...

I am going to be the dissenter here a bit. While it is not good to compare yourself to people much better than you, there is NOTHING wrong with wanting to be fast. Or simply thinking that "I'm not as fast as I want to be (i.e I'm not fast enough).

Furthermore it is not bad to be competitive with others. Of course, the key is picking the right person and keeping perspective. A newish runner on 15 miles a week would be unwise to choose the Lam as his rival, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't have one. Hell, I've been competing/comparing with my brother my whole life and it's made me a much better runner. I keep an eye on my similarly skilled (or slightly better) friends and see how I stack up against them.

I guess my point is as long as you are realistic and keep things in perspective, I see no harm in comparing your running to others.

Then again, I raced in HS and College so that might color my perspective.

The Happy Runner said...

Great post. I'm going to share it with the new runners I helped get started this spring/summer. They are all struggling with their speed -- one runner has proven to be much faster than the others, one has more long run endurance, etc. I keep trying to explain that we're all different. Your post will help :-)

Jason said...

Great post, Lam! Thanks for helping through

Jamie said...

It's easy to compare yourself to others and feel a little inadequate. It can be difficult to remember not to do this and run for you! Good reminder!

NY Wolve said...

Yes, we all compete with ourselves, not each other. Unless you are Meb or Ryan Hall.

While some may be intimidated, I would gather an even greater number are inspired.

And I was short growing up. But am now 6'3".

Runners Passion said...

I couldn't agree more. I run with my wife who has a health condition that prevents her from running as fast as she'd like. She sees others running fast and wonders why she can't do that. I try to tell her it is not important how fast she goes but what is important is that she is trying and she is getting in great exercise to improve her overall health. Try not to compare to others and remember how great you are doing!

cg said...

haha- i do like your posts! i'm small (5' on a good day); have slowed down in my running over the years. keep trying anyway. i related to this post, oddly enough, for my swimming. it's a relatively new sport for me, and one i really struggle with. but every year, i see incremental improvements. i think it's worthwhile to try things outside one's comfort zone. "competition" for me in swimming means finishing w/my wave. in running, it's achieving a goal time. different perspectives.

saucony running shoes said...

I enjoyed reading this post! so much to learn with. Liked it! :D

 
Clicky Web Analytics