1. Don’t let running define you as a person.
This is the first trap I fell into when I started taking running serious my sophomore year of college. Up to that point in my life, running was just something I liked to do (and turned out to be kinda good at) but my day was not influenced by the outcome of a run and I wasn’t known as “the runner”. Life was simple.
My “crazy switch” went on sometime during my sophomore year of college and I started to let running define who I was and how I treated other people. If running was going great, life was going great but if running was going bad, life was bad. For some reason, I led myself to believe that if I wasn’t successful in running, people would see me different or not treat me the same.
This mindset didn’t change overnight…I had to put effort into making a change. For me, it meant finding a friend group outside of running. I found a great group of girls through a college ministry who I started spending my Wednesday nights with. They all thought running was really cool but they didn’t know the difference between running a 9:18 3k or a 10:00 3k…to them, it was all fast. With those girls, I was able to build relationships that weren’t revolving around running—instead I was able to grow with those girls through an important part of my life.
At the end of the day, my parents just love that I run and pursue a passion of mine. When I really sat down and thought about it, their love for me doesn’t change because I never reached my goal of becoming an All-American in college.
Still today, I remind myself on a daily basis that if I could never run another step, I would be okay. My life would move on, I would still have a job that I LOVE and I have relationships built that wouldn’t change.
2. The game of comparison will ruin you.
When you are living with teammates or are on a competitive team, this is an easy trap to fall into. Most girls I went to college with came from small towns and were studs in HS. We weren’t used to getting beat in races let alone in practice. Then you all wake up at the same time, go to class at roughly the same time, have dinner together, go to practice together, run together, race together, travel together…basically you are all living the same life and it’s easy to start comparing yourself to each one of them.
At the end of the day, you are going to have teammates that have more talent than you, are skinnier, are faster than you…that’s inevitable but the worse game you can ever play is comparison. This only leads to a lack of self confidence and low self-esteem.
Recognizing early that the only thing you can control is you can help combat this trap. I wasn’t the skinniest girl on the team but I was durable. That strength allowed me to be very high mileage which was important because even though I was good in HS, at the college level, I was not the most talented. I recognized that the things I could control that would impact my running were my attitude, diligence in the training room, eating the right things (and enough of it!), sleep, and trusting in my coaches.
3. Don’t take running (or yourself) too serious.
Think back to why or how you first started running. Almost anyone you ask this question to can remember the day they became a “runner” or the motivation behind them starting to run. Usually it was to run away from something—I’ve never met someone who started running because they wanted to become an All-American.
I started running because my dad was running one day to train for a PT test so I decided to tag along and the joy that single run brought me was unexplainable. I was 9 or 10 at the time and I was instantly hooked. At that time, I had absolutely no idea that you could run in college and I for sure did not know what an “All-American” was.
So then why in college did I think I was going to be a failure as a person and runner if I never became an All-American? I had lost the joy running had brought me by being fixated on this one goal. I had lost all perspective and instead was banging my head against the wall race and after race as I didn’t see myself getting closer to that one thing I thought that defined success.
I was no longer running because I loved it…and in that trap, I was running in circles rather than towards something. It sounds cliche but I had to learn to not give a shit (excuse my language). There is a fine line between caring and caring too much. The roads help me with avoiding this trap. When you toe the line of a road race there are normally a handful of elites but then there are hundreds or thousands of people out there running for pure enjoyment…yes, they have personal goals but it keeps running in perspective for me.