The tortise and the hare: when comparing can be a good thing

I know I’m working on my speed this year, and am making good progress with Project Speedy; but I’m still a pretty slow runner. Not that I mind; I’d rather run slowly than not at all!

Over the last year I’ve met and made a number of running friends. One guy I know, Brian, is really fast. If I’m a tortise, he’s a hare. He ran his first marathon in three and a half hours…that’s half the time I finished mine in! (Unlike the hare of the fairy tale, he certainly did not stop in the middle for a nap!)

But yeah, he’s that fast. I could look at him and other fast runners like him, and get de-motivated because I’m not as fast as they are. I could look at his race times and sigh and decide I’ll never be that fast so I won’t even try. I could look at his training paces and despair that I didn’t discover running when I was younger and skinnier and fitter when I could have expected to be fast.

I could.

But I don’t.

Recently I noticed that Brian has been running a slow run every week; his pace is about 11:xx per mile. Putting that into perspective…his slow pace is my 5k race pace. Ok, I admit I feel a little sheepish about that, but I recently discovered how I could use that to my advantage.

I was running intervals one evening at my 5k race pace, finding it hard and struggling a bit, and thinking about how for Brian this was a slow pace. As I ran I gradually began to think that one day this will be a slow pace for me too. For now it feels like an impossible dream, seeing what an effort this 5k pace is. But impossible or not, I am dreaming of that day!

And I can’t discount the progress I’ve already made.

Looking back, I ran/walked my very first 5k race in 2013 and finished in 46:15. In 2014 I finished the same race in 38:29. A year after that, after the marathon, I ran another 5k race in 37:07.  And recently, after targeting 5k times in my training, I ran the Great Ireland 5k in 35:15. It’s pretty encouraging to see all my training pay off like that. And I know it will continue to do so.

What’s interesting about being a tortise and having hares for friends is seeing that no matter how our times compare, our training is pretty much the same. We train with a variety of runs, we train at least 5 days a week and we spend a lot of time on our feet. Last year when I counted up the hours I’d spent marathon training, Brian realized that he had spent pretty much the exact same amount of time training as I had. Pretty interesting, don’t you think?

The thing is, with the exception of elite athletes, we are all a tortise to someone else’s hare. But we’re all runners and that’s the comparison that counts.

So while it would be easy to fall into the trap of comparing my running to someone else in a negative way; I won’t. For example, Brian is a guy, a lot younger than I am and there’s not a pick of fat on him…to compare my running to his would be unfair and unproductive.

So instead of looking at it negatively, I think looking at someone like him is kind of like looking at a sign post on a highway; it points to where I want to be someday.

Where I will be.

One day.


2 thoughts on “The tortise and the hare: when comparing can be a good thing

    1. Hi and thanks for your comment. I’ll have to ask him but I do know that he has PB’d every race he’s run since the marathon (we were both first time marathoner’s last October) so I would say at first glance that yes, he’s made similar gains. It looks like his training is going really well.

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