Over on our FaceBook page we had a post this week about comparison, and it generated quite a discussion.
I've been mulling it over for a few days and thought I'd share my thoughts....
When I stared running I didn't have a running watch, I didn't even think that much about time, I did need to know how long I'd been running for as I was doing a version of couch to 5k, but that was it.
As I started to run more I became more interested in how long I'd been out running and I think I used a phone app to see how far I'd run, I then had to work out on a calculator how fast I'd run, I had no idea there were gadgets out there that would work that out for me!
As time went on I found out about GPS watches, and invested in one. Wow, I was hooked! I could see at a glance how far I'd run and how fast I was going, in the beginning that was really motivating, if I felt tired, I'd look at my watch and think, only half a mile and I'll have reached my target, so I'd push on..... Luckily I didn't injure myself doing that, but I have seen others do so, not wanting to stop until the watch shows the magic number can become a bit of on obsession.
I have used my watch to help me train for races and improve my times, and I really do like having that instant feedback with me but.....as the years went by I became more focused on that task master on my wrist, I'd catch myself thinking "last week I was 3 seconds faster at this point" and I would beat myself up for that perceived failure. Eventually I started to vary my routes more so that I couldn't do that en-route comparison as easily.
My comparison has always been with myself, about how I could have run those few seconds faster, gone those few 100 meters further, been more even with my splits......on and on that comparison goes, there was a time that I thought that I wasn't making any progress and felt like giving up!
Then along came the running community apps, yet more opportunities to compare myself to others. To be honest, by the time I got round to joining (I'm definitely not an early adopter!) I was much more comfortable with my own running and was more interested in other people's stats than comparing them with my own.
However I do notice others talking about how they compare themselves with others, feeling that they should be running further or faster or for longer, that so-and-so hasn't been running as long as me, but has improved quicker, that mega mileage is being done by running friends and that they can find the time to do it so why can't I....
Gadgets are great, I still love mine but I use it for my own benefit, my watch also counts steps and some days I love just saying "Yah-Boo" watch, I'm not going to do to target you've set me and I DON'T CARE!
In our groups we really try to embrace the health benefits of running and walking, rather than just looking at speed and distance. The improvements to our mental and physical being are huge, the social feeling is so important too.
All our groups are mixed ability which means we have some really quick runners alongside those at a more sedate pace, this might look a bit unusual to start with, but we know that for us it works. No one gets left behind and as all our paces vary slightly we don't really compare ourselves to each other on the run. I'm not saying we don't have some good natured competition, but at the heart of it we are all working as hard as we can, be that at 6 minutes a kilometer or 11, and we all respect the effort that each one of us is putting in.
Sometimes I think that I should leave my watch at home, that I shouldn't upload to that running community app, but you know what, I do like to see what I've done, I'm proud of every step I take and I'm proud of the steps that others take too!
So is Comparison the thief of Joy? Yes, I think it can be. Comparison with ourselves or with other can take away the Joy we feel in the pure energy of running, but only if we let it. X