Saturday, February 5, 2011

Runner's Envy

I love following the people who are really good at this sport. Today the Cross-Country Nationals took place. You can see the results (and the blisteringly fast times) here. There were a lot of people from Boulder among the winners and Top 10-ers. Makes me proud to be passed here (and makes me wonder who was doing the passing)!

This seems like a good segue into one of my little issues: Runner's Envy. I am pretty much jealous--and I know it's totally fruitless and irrational, but it is what it is--of everyone who is better at this than I am. My jealousy is particularly focused on people who are in a similar situation to mine (i.e. a mom of small kids, a latecomer to the sport, an on-again-off-again dabbler, or some combo of those features) but have had more success than I have.

I'd venture to say that jealousy in some form is my greatest fault. Perhaps it's a consequence of mediocrity in many areas where I once had hope for myself, or where others once had hope for me. (I'm a bit nervous about my high school reunion this summer. I'm sure my "accomplishments" are nothing of the kind compared to those of others.)

Running is different. I've never been under any illusions that I have any great talent at it. And it's certainly not something that haunted my dreams as a young person. Yet I wouldn't be trying to get to Boston if I didn't have some late-blooming ambitions for my running.

Why is running so captivating for someone like me?

Some of it has to do with how running affects my outlook for the rest of the day. Weariness of the daily grind makes way for sunniness and gratitude. But much of the appeal is in the act itself, the way I feel during the last half of a run. Even when certain things are hurting--my bum foot (still need to call someone about that), or my calves--my head feels so good, so full of fresh oxygen and warm blood, and my skin feels so alive. I love the powerful feeling I get when I can pick up speed at the end. I love the fact that my new "I can finish this" distance has increased to two miles--meaning that when I'm within two miles of the end of a difficult effort, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will finish. At the end of the run I'm not worried about anything but moving my body forward some more.

Maybe that's where the jealousy comes in. Because when I'm feeling so strong and happy and alive, it's a bummer to be rendered second-class by labels like "mid-packer." It's tough to accept that no matter how hard I work, I'll never be as fast as so-and-so whom I see around, and who is no more of a pro than I am--but gets noticed by others because they have talent the talent to run 7 minute miles when I can run only 8 minuters. It makes me think I should leave it behind, and find a hobby where I have some chance of success that others will recognize and take vicarious pleasure in. Is success without recognition really success?

Then I have another of those magical runs (and most of them have been magical these days). They put the jealousy in its proper place, at least until I read a blog by or a news account of someone with real talent. Then the cycle begins again.

Until I mature past the point of jealousy (it can happen, right?), I'm trying to take each run as it comes: joy in the moment, a solitary surrender to something that will probably never reward me in ways the world measures but that some better part of me finds rewarding all the same. Hopefully that, and hard work, will be enough to help me make my anonymous way to Boston.

Here's today's 10 miler:


  1. This blog seems like a good way to get the recognition you, and so many of us middle of the packers, deserve.

  2. Thanks Steve! Sorry about the whiney post. I'll try to refrain from blogging when I've had too many late nights with kids. I think the upcoming HS reunion is prompting some tiny midlife crisis feelings, too. :^)

  3. For me, the way to deal with putting so much effort in and being totally average is that I am competitive with myself. I just strive to keep getting better, beating my last time, etc. and I try not to worry about everyone else.

    You are doing great!!! :)

  4. Thanks for the boost, Erin! I think your results are amazing. If you want it, I'm sure you have your own BQ in the future.