After the Chicago marathon I found myself in a bar celebrating with my boyfriend’s running friends, most of whom finished the marathon a full hour faster than I did… yes, you read correctly, ONE HOUR FASTER. My feelings oscillated between “damn proud” of my time and a little embarrassed of how long it took me to finish.
The embarrassment was totally unjustified, of course, I just PR’d!! Still, I was slow, compared to these people. I prayed nobody would ask me my time. There was a man there who finished in 2:58 and several women who ran 3:10 to 3:15. Ugh.
In this moment, I thought of my dad. He ran his first marathon last fall at the age of 59. He’s a fit guy who enjoys basketball, cycling and water skiing, but at 6 feet 4 inches, one might argue that he isn’t exactly built to be a distance runner. That’s a limiting belief, in my opinion, but you get the point… he was relatively new to distance running and also a big guy. I found out later that he really believed that he COULD NOT run a marathon. To say I was proud of his accomplishment would be an understatement.
On the day itself, my dad was feeling a little off. He had a massive fade earlier than expected (before the half-way point). We tried to identify a root cause for this. He probably went out a little fast, but I don’t think we can attribute the full fade to that. Ultimately, I’m just going to say that it wasn’t his day. You never know what might happen during a first marathon anyway. In the end, he finished in just over 5 hours, which was slower than he’d hoped.
A few months later we were together and I was telling one of my friends about my dad’s accomplishment because like I said, I am really proud of the guy. He started to downplay it, saying that his time was really slow. I resisted the urge to say anything in the moment, but later, I asked if I could give him some feedback. I told him that I was really proud of him, which is why I mentioned his achievement. No matter what he thinks of his time, it’s selfish of him to downplay it. It’s like not accepting a compliment. What he did resonated with me because that’s exactly how I have reacted in similar situations. We both agreed that we owe it to ourselves and to the people around us to own our running achievements, even if we think we can probably do better.
So, back to the bar in Chicago… I thought of the feedback I gave my dad after his marathon, and I did my best to tell my marathon story without judgment, qualification, or apology. I accepted congratulations from these very fast runners. It felt a little uncomfortable, but I got used to it. And, most importantly, nobody told me I was slow or laughed at me.
Here are a few reasons to own your accomplishments, even if that makes you feel uncomfortable:
- Fast and slow are relative terms – If you’re marathon PR is 5 hours and you’re telling someone that you’re slow, what if they, like my dad just over a year ago, can’t fathom running a marathon? We are all slow compared to the winner. And we are all fast compared to the person who hasn’t tried.
- Judging yourself is a cop out – By launching a pre-emptive attack against yourself, you are protecting yourself. If you do it first, you can’t be hurt when someone else says or thinks that you’re slow. But honestly, if someone’s response to your marathon time includes the word slow, that person sucks. You don’t need them, their energy, or their uncalled for judgments in your life. It’s better for you to find out so you can keep your distance.
- Everyone starts somewhere – At the Chicago bar I mentioned earlier, I chatted with one of Michael’s friends, the one who finished in 3:10 and guess what, she ran her first marathon in ~4:10. She worked her buns off over a period of 6 years to reduce her time. How inspiring is that?
- Embrace discomfort – If it is uncomfortable, it’s generally a good exercise. I know, it’s a sweeping statement, but it’s usually true!
Have you ever felt embarrassed about a race time? How do you #ownit?
Happy Running! And remember to #Runapologetic 🙂