When the pandemic cancelled my slate of 2020 races, I decided to hang up my shoes for the season. Not wanting to waste the fitness that I had gained over the spring, I quickly decided to run a solo half marathon time trial and then enjoyed a summer off from running.
It was an incredibly refreshing experience. I spent the summer camping and hiking. I read more books. I could run whenever I wanted to and didn’t have to build my schedule around a daily run. It was a much needed break from the intense focus that I normally bring to my training.
As the summer was ending and the temperature began to drop, it seemed like everyone in my Strava feed was making use of their summer training by racing time trails and crushing personal bests. I was happy for them, but any competitive person knows the feeling of jealousy that creeps up when a friend runs well.
As I saw these races pop up, I began to doubt myself and my choices. I asked myself, “why did I waste my summer by not training like these people did?” A little seed of self-doubt was planted deep in the back of my mind, and it caused me to question why I hadn’t trained harder in order to prove myself to others.
Over the space of a few short weeks, I went from feeling content with my decision to take the summer off, to feeling jealous that I wasn’t living up to a standard that someone else was setting.
It’s easy to make these kinds of comparisons. In life, there will always be someone who is more successful than you at any moment, whether it is your sibling, a coworker, or someone you follow on Instagram.
The more I have run, the more I’ve come to realize the real reason I lace up my shoes. It’s certainly not for someone else, or to post a fast time on Strava. The main inspiration for my running is because I love doing it and it makes me feel good.
So why was I letting this little seed of self-doubt corrupt the reason I pursue this hobby?
It has taken me a long time to realize that I am a performance-minded individual. I look at my achievements and what I have produced and compare that against others around me. Seeing the scales of success tip toward another person that I’ve compared myself with, even in my own mind, causes me to act. It will push me to run more and to work harder. It’s most likely what makes me such a competitive runner.
But I’ve learned that this isn’t the way to live a fulfilling life.
If my only motivation to get out the door and run is to prove something to others, then I’m making a big mistake. Working hard because I feel like I’m falling behind someone else means that I’m never going to be happy, because I’ll never get over that bar. There will always be someone ahead of me somewhere.
The times when I have the most joy and experience the most personal satisfaction are when I’m doing something for myself.
I can still be competitive, chase goals, and want to train hard to outperform others. But I also have to be aware of why I am getting out the door. If I’m working hard because it makes me feel more confident and brings me joy, and I happen to accomplish a few goals along the way, then I know I’ve gotten out the door for the right reason.
To do anything else is to chase someone else’s standard of success and that doesn’t lead to fulfillment. For now, I’m working on making sure I’m getting out of the door for the right reason.
Read more from Keegan at his personal blog: https://www.keeganruns.com