Last weekend I ran a 5K with Andy and a few friends. The night before, he and I were talking about our intentions for the race. As it turns out, we had very different goals.
Andy’s plan was to place in his age group.
My plan was to have a nice, easy run and enjoy the day.
I mentioned that I might come in last, because it was a small race.
Andy had opinions about this.
He said, “I think you should set goals for yourself. Try to improve, try harder during races. Don’t settle for just showing up.”
Actually, I’m not sure if those were his exact words—but they are the words I heard.
I was quiet for a moment.
It’s OK to Have Your Own Goals
Andy and I are in different places in our respective running practices.
I’ve been a runner for over 20 years. I’m almost 100 pounds overweight and 14 years older than him. I have arthritis in both knees and have had a few injuries over the years. I’ve never been speedy. My fastest 5K is 39 minutes and that was 10 years ago.
Andy is discovering running for the first time in his life, and he’s really good at it. He didn’t just place in his age group at that race—he took first place and set yet another PR, finishing in just under 24 minutes. He’s been running for a little over a year and is still discovering what he’s capable of.
When he told me he thought I should be approaching my running differently, I made it mean a few things:
He thinks I’m not a real runner. He’s embarrassed by me because all his friends are fast and they have to wait around for me to finish. He wants me to be different.
When I think those things, I feel ashamed and hurt, and a little defensive. I wanted to run away and hide, or get angry and tell him to stay out of my business.
You Get to Choose How You Feel
Andy is entitled to share his opinions about my running with me, and I get to decide what I want to make it mean. I get to choose if I want to feel embarrassed, or something else.
I decided I wanted to feel grateful and to make his opinions mean that he loves me and wants me to be happy. His interpretation of what I should be doing is based on HIS experience and desires. They really have nothing to do with me.
So I explained that I have different goals for myself. When I show up to a start line, my only intention is to enjoy myself. I like to think of a race as a catered workout. I don’t want to go full throttle at every race. I’m simply not interested.
When I think of it like that, there’s no pressure. I don’t get anxious or nervous. I just show up and run and have fun.
We talked about it and he understood. And I also respect that he WANTS to do the exact things with running that I don’t want to do. It doesn’t make either of us wrong.
I can cheer for him and be excited when he gets faster and does amazing things with his running. He can cheer for me when I come in last place, smiling, slow as fuck, just happy to be running.
Some Final Thoughts
We ended up having an awesome time at the race. We met a bunch of friends there and each did our own thing. I was the last one of the group to finish, and Andy was waiting for me at the finish line with his camera ready. He got a great picture of me coming down the home stretch, and I got a great picture of him accepting his first-place medal. Then we went out for pancakes.
I’m sharing this story because I want you to know that it’s OK when people you love want different things for you than you want for yourself. It doesn’t mean either of you is wrong, it doesn’t mean you don’t love each other, and it definitely doesn’t need to be a huge conflict.
Let your loved ones think the way they want. It’s OK. Go for a run and shake it off. Make it mean something awesome, instead of choosing to feel hurt.
Then go have pancakes.