Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Don't Let Others Define "Success"

When you put your heart and soul into an endeavor, you want to feel good about it.  At some point you move past the "casual jogger" phase, and start calling yourself a "runner" and you want to think that all those early mornings, nagging injuries, runs in miserable weather, and all that money spent on gortex and spandex, should be generating good positive feelings of success, right ?  The problem is; what is success ?  When I started thinking about this question, the first thing that popped into my head, is my quest for a sub 4 hour marathon.  I've been trying to get that for a year and a half and haven't done it yet.  I lost almost 80 pounds, made a bunch of great new friends, got a huge boost in self confidence, and dropped 5 minutes off my 5k PR, and I could very easily say that my running has been "unsuccessful" because I haven't gotten my sub-4 hour marathon.  ( yet !! )  I have occasion to run with a group of people on a regular basis, and I've been treating these runs as tempo runs ( there's a slew of definitions for a "tempo run" but its basically a run at very close to your aerobic threshold, or at a pace faster than you can carry on a conversation at )  The other night when I was struggling to keep up with the group, I was over hearing some of the chatter, ( but unable to participate as my lungs, nose, mouth, and airway were fully consumed with the task of getting enough air into and out of my lungs to keep from passing out ! ).....and there were comments like "this is a good pace...I needed a nice easy run tonight"....and "I'm glad we're going slow tonight so I can be well rested for my track workout tomorrow".  Meanwhile, my internal dialogue is chanting: "just don't die......just don't die.....just don't die"  On this particular night, we were running a little faster than an 8 min/mile pace. When the run was over, I was pretty proud of the information that was reflected in the face of my Garmin GPS Running Watch.  ( so much so that I posted it on Facebook !! )  

The vastly different opinions of the same outcome from different runners got me thinking about the definition of a "good run" or when do you consider your run a success ?   Here I was running hard enough that conversation was difficult, running side by side with someone who considered it akin to a rest day or a recovery run  !!  That is one of the many wonderful things about running.  We can each define our own success.  The problem is, that we can also each define out own failure, and runners tend to be overly self-critical, and very hard to please.   You can do everything right:  Skip the deserts, go to bed early, hit the track, stretch, eat the latest superfood, and still have a run that doesn't meet our internal definition of success.  You finish the run, glance at your watch, and exclaim  "WOE IS ME...WHERE DID I GO WRONG ?!?!?"  Where you went wrong is setting some arbitrary numerical definition of success !!  How is it that a 7:59 pace is acceptable, and an 8:01 pace is a failure ???  IT'S NOT !!
Running is a simple sport, but you are not a simple creature.  There are many things that go into determining how your body will respond to a certain situation. Some you can control, and some you can't.  Heat. Hours of sleep. Hydration. Stress. Humidity. Nagging injuries. Whether the attractive neighbor is out watering her lawn.  The level of animosity towards your boss.  All of these things will affect the pace that you run.  What really matters isn't what's on the stopwatch, it's the level of effort you expended.  If you gave it all you had on that particular day, you are a STARK RAVING SUCCESS !!!!  There will be days when it takes a Herculean effort to hit a certain pace, and there will be days when you can just go through the motions, and still hit that pace without even thinking about it.  A "successful" pace will vary from day to day, person to person, workout to workout....even hour to hour.  Half of it is just showing up.  If you get your running shoes on, and get past the end of the driveway, you're well on your way to a successful run.  Don't crucify yourself if you can't hit the pace that you did last week, month or season.  You're out there working on it.  As long as you're giving it all you have that day, you're good.  You can return home, shower, and conduct yourself with that little, internal smugness that says "I am a runner, dammit"  While others sleep in, or bemoan the weather, I pound the pavement.  I give my all.  I leave my heart, soul, frustrations and troubles out there on the course, and am a better person because of it.  Don't measure your effort by someone else's standards, and don't let your definition of success be represented digitally or numerically.  Run your run, and ask yourself if you could have run any better on that day.  You know.  The little voice inside you knows.  That's all that matters.

Thanks again for reading, and.....

Just don't stop running.....


  1. Awesome post, Greg!!! I needed to read that today when the results of a local 12K fun run were published :-) Thanks for writing so eloquently.

  2. Nice site and post. Keep up the great work!