You know you haven’t updated your blog in a long time when your family starts asking about it.
This semester is packed with projects, classes, and prospectus-ing. One of my goals for the year (and something that’s also on my bucket list) is to train for and run the Austin Livestrong Marathon. For the past month, I have been waking up at 5 am to go running before the terrible Houston sun makes it impossible for me to go outside.
This past weekend, we were running around the River Oaks area. As I was admiring the sunrise, the giant houses with their perfectly manicured lawns, and feeling a week’s worth of stress melt away, I heard footsteps coming up behind me. My body tensed up and I felt myself pounding the pavement a little harder, my arms swinging a little wider. It was like my Fight-or-Flight response had been triggered by a little sound.
As I huffed and puffed, the footsteps drew even closer. Soon, a pack of four tall, lean, running machines went whizzing past. I saw them stop at the water break up ahead, and overheard part of their conversation. They were on their second lap of our 8-mile loop, while I was making my way through my first (and only) lap.
Instantly, my self-esteem deflated. I got to the water stop, chugged three paper cups, and was off again. I ran harder, pushed myself, let my competitive streak control my running. And—surprise, surprise—I was out of breath, exhausted, and ready to walk after another half mile.
I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. All the beauty, the calm, the joy I felt just a few minutes before had disappeared, leaving behind disappointment and regret.
If this had happened while I was on campus, overhearing news of some one’s recent publication, for instance, or hearing about a fellowship someone received, I probably would have let my disappointment ruin the rest of my afternoon. But because I was running (and still had 4 miles to go) I had time to think about the situation and to try to come up with a zen lesson.
I’m 5’2. My legs are not a mile long, and I am an amateur. I’m running because I love to run, not because I want to qualify for Boston (though if I survive this marathon, I won’t be surprised if I push the bar higher. Ambition, I has it.). In short, I am not those runners. I am my own runner. I finished the long run on Saturday with a good pace—for me. In running, as in writing (and in life), we should compare ourselves to only ourselves.
My parents used to tell me, “Do the best that you can do.” We all have different abilities, experiences, and qualities that make us succeed. Our success should be measured against what we ourselves can accomplish, not against the pace of the runner next to us.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t reach for the stars. How can you know what your best is without pushing yourself? But don’t hurt yourself—emotionally, physically, psychologically—in the process.
And most of all, enjoy the run. It’s an awfully pretty sunrise.