I recently ran in a 10km community run. I am fairly new to this process of waking up early on a Sunday morning and running around with total strangers, this was my second time. Having done it before and surviving I thought I had it nailed, so I was very relaxed before the event started.
After the starting gun (horn) sounded I was off, running strongly, overtaking people left and right but soon I began to struggle. I couldn’t get into a rhythm and I barely felt comfortable the whole time. As you could imagine, people began to overtake me – which did not feel good at all. I thought I would have the strength and stamina to catch up to them again; I did not. My focus shifted from the people who had already overtaken me, and I concentrated on not letting anyone else past. That did not work either. People kept coming from nowhere and running past like I was standing still.
Finally, I shifted my focus to just finishing the race. Not stopping. Just put one foot in front of another. This I did achieve, and I enjoyed crossing the finish line, but it didn’t feel like a good run. I felt defeated and embarrassed that so many people overtook me. Clearly I was out of my league.
It turns out, though, I ran a personal best time. The first few km’s I ran out of my skin, faster than I have ever run before, which is why I slowed towards the end – and why I never felt comfortable. I was out of my comfort zone the whole time. If this was the best I have ever run, then why didn’t it feel good?
I think it has something to do with how we perceive progress. It is important to feel like we are getting somewhere. Progress, even if it is a tiny thing, is incredibly motivating.
However, progress, when based on comparison to other people’s success is incredibly demotivating because we see all the people in front of us (or overtaking us) in the journey. Plus, outside of an actual race, we don’t know where other people have started or where they will finish – they are most likely running a completely different race to you.
The best way to create progress in our lives is to focus purely on ourselves. Not on the other runners. If we continue to put one foot in front of another, concentrate on the race we are running, looking to be better than we were last time/yesterday then we will see progress much clearer than if we are looking left or right. That way, even if it doesn’t feel comfortable, it will still feel good.