She Ain’t What She Used to Be…

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I am convinced that somewhere deep inside me there is still an athlete — right now said athlete is doing a really great job of hiding. I went running the other day and am pretty sure no one would look at me and ever make the assumption that I had once been a collegiate athlete. I think back of that and laugh sometimes, especially since the other day, on that run, I got the “Old Gray Mare” song stuck in my head. The “she ain’t what she she used to be” part seemed particularly appropriate.

I frequently use these comparisons to deprive myself of little victories. I ran 3 miles at 8 minute mile pace and was excited until I reminded myself that I used to consider that training pace and would do 10 mile runs even faster. For any recent accomplishment, I have a time or achievement from my college running that puts my current success to shame.

Let me tell you how much fun this is — it isn’t. I am not old enough to be doing this to myself, and it probably won’t get better. It also shows very little grace. Instead of rejoicing because a month ago I got tired walking to work and now I’m running again, I am making comparisons to a very different time and place, and one that doesn’t exist anymore.

In competitive running we talk about PRs. It stands for personal record and can be used as a noun, verb, or adjective. Most runners have a whole set of PRs ¬†they hold in their minds and try and beat each time they run. This can be really encouraging and self-motivating, or, in my case, just really defeating. So I have decided to start clean, in the same way you can clear the trip data on your car. Or maybe I’ll just hold two categories — college and everything after that.

Because I am depriving myself of the best part of running. Running is all about little victories. Every time you come back from being sick or injured or just taking time off — you can have new victories. I am going to celebrate that run as my first run back after a few months of being sick where I moved at 8 minute mile pace. The first time I can run 5 miles again will be another victory. Every step forward is to be celebrated as opposed to compared and diminished.

It is amazing sometimes how I don’t even have to compare myself to others to put myself down. I in myself have more than enough fodder for judgment. But I also have more than enough reason for joy. I may not be what I used to be or be able to run as I used to at the moment, but I have learned perseverance and humility that I never would have if running always went my way. I am learning to branch out into other areas of physical activity so that I give myself some grace and some room to try new things and celebrate those discoveries.

Running is too much of a gift in my life to turn it against myself, to have it be a cause for disappointment and discouragement. If I cannot always run — then when I can run, it will be a cause for celebration and joy. My newest PR I am eyeing, is how many days I run in sucsession, that I can encourage myself and celebrate the little victories because running is a gift and should be treated as such.

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