“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt
A couple of months ago, I picked up my kids from school and my 8-year-old daughter excitedly said, “Mom, in school we ran the mile today.” I smiled. Actually, I did a little internal happy dance. My kids now relay anything running related to me because they identify their mom as a runner.
“That sounds so fun,” I responded.
“Even though it was super hot, I ran it in 13 minutes,” she said.
“That’s great. Good job. I’m so proud of you.”
She answered with, “But the fastest girl, she ran it in 8 minutes.”
And just this week, my older son started soccer conditioning for high school, and wants to try out for the freshman soccer team in August. He was told that he needs to run a sub 7-minute mile to make the team, but as of now, he falls 12 seconds short of that.
I actually know a little bit about soccer, because I’m married to a soccer fanatic. Due to some peripheral and not so peripheral watching of the sport, I’m aware that there are different positions on the team. And you probably already know from another post that I’ve always had this thing for soccer players’ thighs (see Hills and Lumbersexuals). Anyway, yes, you need to run a lot in soccer, and being fast helps, but you could be such an amazing striker or goalie that running a 7.25 minute mile will still do. Are you going to not make the team, even though you could potentially score more goals or save more goals than anyone else based on a cut-off of what speed determines that you can run? What about good old endurance? Maybe you can run a 6 minute mile, but you get tired after 20 minutes. The last time I checked, soccer matches last 90+ minutes.
It took me 2.5 years of running regularly, as in 4 – 5 times per week, before I was able to answer the question “Are you a runner?” with “Yes, I am”, and a lot had to do with this emphasis we place on speed. Before, I would always qualify the answer with a wishy-washy, “well….I run….but I’m not fast, I just enjoy it.” It probably didn’t help that when I was new to running and had joined a running group, a veteran runner (of the male species) told me that I was “jogging, not running” and then proceeded to show me the difference. Don’t tell me that I’m doing the J-word when I feel like I’m flying. That is actually the only instance when another runner has made a not so positive comment to me. Most runners are completely supportive of other runners, regardless of their speed.
It seems that running is not the only hobby I have in which I’ve been uncomfortable in calling myself what I am. When people find out that I do yoga regularly, I almost always qualify it with, “well, I usually only go once a week, and I can’t do any of the arm balances.” When people find out that I take tennis lessons, my immediate response is, “I can’t serve at all…I just enjoy doing a rally and wanted to be able to do that with my kids.”
And most recently, when people find out that I’ve started a blog, I make sure that I let them know that I don’t actually think I’m a writer….I even put that disclaimer in my about page….I’m just experimenting with writing and blogging, but I am not a writer. There are some amazing writers in my family; I don’t feel comfortable calling myself one of them. When Women’s Running Magazine published my first essay on their website and it got over 1,500 shares, of which only a handful were my friends, that still did not make me a writer. When they published the second one just a couple of weeks later….nope, not a writer, but someone experimenting with blogging who has had a couple of posts published on a website.
Why is it that when people ask me about my hobbies or passions, I feel the need to immediately confess to my “shortcomings” or disqualify myself? If someone asked my son if he is a tennis player, and after a couple of years of regularly playing he said, “well…I’ve been taking lessons for 2 years, but I’m not a tennis player”, I’d deliver him an entire manifesto about self-confidence. And I actually think that as an adult, I’m a pretty confident person….so hmmmm…..
After 2.5 years, what made me finally feel comfortable calling myself a runner? It was a series of events. Being able to run longer distances without feeling drained was one of them, not just surviving but actually enjoying the hilly course in the San Francisco half-marathon was another. But the final and definitive factor, even though my speed has been progressively improving….it had nothing to do with the J-word or speed….it was when I just knew that I had to run…that it made me happy and sane and gave me clarity and it just became what I had to do….what I don’t want to ever have to give up. I enjoy yoga, I enjoy writing or blogging or whatever you want to call it….but if I had to, I could stop both tomorrow and be ok. I have to run. I am a runner, because I run not with speed or my legs, but with my heart.**
**After reading this, it occurs to me that although I could stop writing tomorrow, I still blog/write with my heart. And yoga, well, …I’d definitely miss Jake.