This is day 2 of my 30 day writing challenge.
This morning I was pondering running and ego, not in the sense of it creating an over-inflated sense of self, but more in the sense of fragility. I think for most of us running is incredibly empowering in building both physical and mental strength, and it quickly becomes something that feels like a vital part of ourselves. I mean, we commit to training and everything else that goes along with it (nutrition, strength work, recovery), so it’s not like an isolated hour or two of our daily existence. Even if we have other passions, running, for me at least, is the most important thing I do to maintain the happiest version of myself. I love reading, but if I go for a few days without picking up a book, it’s not such a big deal. Knitting, doodling, calligraphy, all also float my boat, but I revisit them in more of a serial fashion. Shit, I’ve been knitting the same damn scarf for almost a year now. Running, however, is a different beast.
When you find something that is so essential to you as a person, I suppose it is natural to look for external validation. I know I’m not only a runner, and taking on activities as part of our identities can be tricky, but still. Can you think of something more frustrating than someone equating your effort to “jogging,” or replying to an inquiry about a recent race time with an “Eh, that’s not too bad.” (Even worse if your age/gender is thrown into this retort, i.e. “that’s not too bad for an XX year old woman.”) What about when you encounter someone new to this thing you’ve been plugging away at on and off for over a decade who blows your performance out of the water? I’ve been in funks where I’ve fallen into comparison traps and had to step away from various people/groups/platforms, both on- and offline, but if I had paused to check my own ego would I have bounced back quicker and been able to see a larger, more collective, positivity floating around?
I don’t have a lot of people in my everyday life that are also runners, that grasp why I feel so connected to it, and truly understand why at this amazing age of 36 (yeah, I said it loud and proud), I still have legitimate goals in regards to races and paces. No, I don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. Yes, I am still very proud of my accomplishments, and I do believe there are still some many more great feats to come. All of this begs the question: does it matter? Does it matter to have no one beside yourself who “gets it,” to champion your dedication and achievement? I suppose the enlightened answer is “no,” but I think there’s a caveat, and I do think it’s why so many of us take to blogging, social media, and the like. We can’t expect everyone to “get it,” but we can build our own tribe of people who do. I think this makes it easier to gently excuse those who don’t, and also to allow those who can to not fall too down an ego-fueled rabbit hole.
Perhaps honesty is the antidote to a fragile ego, or rather acceptance. I am where I am. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. I don’t always need to pretend it’s good to find support. I’m not writing these things because I have no support in my personal life. Even if I can concede that my husband will never completely “get it,” as the non-runner he is, he tries to be supportive and is fairly patient with the endless chatter about tempo splits and the parade of various post-run discoveries. “You have GOT to see the frost on my hat from sweating this morning. I created my own snow…I created my OWN snow!” (It doesn’t take much to excite me.)
I’m also not writing in this space to champion myself, and perhaps this has been part of my internal dialogue about running and ego. Why write about my running? I do want to share my successes, but only because I like to revel in those of others. I don’t want to one up anyone, and I never think that about racing either. If you out kick me in the final stretch, we’ve done our job of pushing each other to the finish, and I hope we can hug it out over a banana and some Fritos.
There’s been a little voice in the back of my head that’s been saying “just put yourself out there and see what happens.” So, here I am.