Why Comparing Yourself With Other Runners Is a Mistake

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It’s an easy trap to fall into, but in recent years I’ve had to catch myself when I started comparing how I run with with other runners — I bet you can relate. Here’s how I tackled it, plus four more of my biggest mistakes in running:

1) Lacking bravery

Whether it was going after my first BQ, my first ultra, or chasing a PR, I lived in fear of accomplishing these goals for a long time. I almost waited until I was over prepared to take on these huge challenges.

It hasn’t been an overnight change, but I have set new goals and will go after bigger challenges that will force me to get beyond my comfort zone.

2) Comparing myself to others

As a distance runner, it is very easy to get caught up in “more is better”. Especially when you have friends who put in mega mileage, it seems like there is always someone going longer and faster.

I hit an over-training point last summer and it took stepping back to realize I was doing more harm than good. Though it is tough, it is so important to run with the mantra “you do you”.

3) Forgoing strength & stretch

It doesn’t require a huge time commitment, yet for many years I got lazy about strength and stretch. When something was sore or started to ache, it was likely due to flexibility and lack of conditioning.

I don’t need to do an hour leg workout everyday, but I do need to make sure all my muscles are supporting my cardio activity.

4) Running long runs too fast

Given my race times, my long runs needed to be much slower. Part of my reasoning was typically due to #1 – the need to feel prepared to cover the distance at the fastest pace on race day.

Instead, I was essentially racing every weekend and not giving my body enough chance to recover between efforts.

5) Racing too much

Especially in ultras, getting long runs in week after week can be tough without some extra motivation. Sometimes I would sign up for races so that I would have an easy way to knock out the mileage.

The problem was actually racing all the races instead of tackling them at a training pace. I do love to race, but I need to be mindful of the big goals and the bigger picture.

And here’s five things I do well (and you can too)

Staying motivated. I rarely have a day that I don’t want to go for a run. Sometimes I have string of bad runs in a row or the weather is particularly horrible, but I know I almost always feel better afterwards.

Tapering correctly. I do miss some of the harder and longer efforts involved at the height of training, but the taper is the time to ensure race day success. When I feel antsy and ready to push the pace the week of the race, I know to save it for the day that matters.

Evolving with the times. Just because the same gel, same shoes, same training plan, etc. have worked for years, it doesn’t mean you have to stick with it forever. Some of my choices have been big flops (large cold brew coffee before a race), but some have led to breakthroughs (back to back long runs).

Dress rehearsal runs. Before any big goal race, I like to have my dress rehearsal run. I eat my prerace dinner and breakfast, run in my race clothes, and make final adjustments to nutrition and hydration.

Finding joy. Your joy doesn’t have to be the same as mine (see mistake #2), but hopefully you can find all the different ways running can make you happy. Whether it is the satisfied exhaustion of a hard workout or the happy chatter of sharing miles with friends, running with joy can many different connotations.

Carissa Liebowitz has run the Boston Marathon as well as dozens of marathons and half marathons. You can follow her running adventures on StravaInstagram and her blog.

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