Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Name:
Location: Sacramento, California, United States

8.18.2008

Seductive Statistics

I often struggle with my running in terms of what my goals are, how much is "enough," and how fast I "should" be going. As much as I enjoy having running buddies at Fleet Feet, it's also sometimes difficult to put things in perspective when I'm surrounded by people who run as much or more than I do, especially when I feel as though they're all faster than I am.

Logically, I know this isn't true, but it can be hard to avoid putting pressure on myself to match up to someone else's goal or pace, even if that's not realistic for me. I'm great at reminding others that you have to "run your own race" and "train your own training," but I don't always put that into practice for myself.

Case in point: One of the FF regulars, A., often runs with her brother, B. Most of the time, they end up out in front of me, but at a certain point, the distance between us remains constant, meaning that our paces from then on are about the same. However, I don't usually feel that I can catch up to them, and at a recent 10K, they both finished in front of me by several minutes. I also discovered that A. did the CIM 2007 in 3:28 (!!!) and the recent SF Marathon in 3:45, which she described in the context of "running slower and feeling better."

I worked so hard for my sub-4:00 CIM 2007 time of 3:57, and I can't even imagine what it would be like to run a 3:28 marathon. The 3:45 feels somewhat more within the realm of possibility, but probably not on a hilly course like the one in SF. So even though I'm impressed by her accomplishments, it makes me feel somehow less.

Focusing on statistics like this can be seductive, because those figures are so concrete and tangible. Even though I know that what really matters is my own goals and how I feel, it's so tempting to get pulled into the numbers.

So here's a number that I discovered today that I can really embrace... According to Runner's World, only 17% of women who ran marathons in 2007 finished in under 4 hours (September 2008, p. 36). That puts me in some pretty darn good company, and I can definitely be proud of being in the top 17% of female marathoners.

Now that's a stat to inspire and motivate and remember whenever I start feeling discouraged!

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. J... surely you must know that you need to listen to your own advice. 83rd percentile is AWESOME!!! I just hope you can find some peace with your abilities and know that you are a truly remarkable person in physical and intellectual ways. These two P's know it.

Mr. E!

11:31 AM  
Blogger Adam P. said...

I agree with E on the percentile that you are in.

Furthermore, I think that you don't need to push yourself to be with the others. I know it's seductive, but how about focusing on other aspects of training that might make you better in other regards... Wind Sprints to give you more "kick" when needed or look into some aerobic or anaerobic type training that could give you better overall stamina, allowing for a better and more consistent pace.

I recently started throwing again and in that, I tweaked the shoulder very early on. No frustration, just knowledge that I needed to build up and change the routine, not a hung head thinking that I should have been better than that. I find the joy in the stretching and strengthening so I can get back out there. Finding ways to vary my practice so that I can stay fresh, ahead of the curve, and stimulated in my attempts. Maybe it is a bit of the Sesame Street mentality that has taken over America in that I'm basically saying, "Don't get bored, so change it a lot," but I think that there is something in there as long as you set a program and stick with it.

Look not to those in front of you, look back at yourself and where you were last week, last month, last year, etc.

1:28 PM  

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