Perception is everything: Lessons from Running

Last year I joined a running group.  I’ve been a runner for over ten years but this was a new venture for me. Its been thoroughly enjoyable but more than its been a great teacher. This post is the first in a series where I try to capture all the lessons I’ve learnt from running.

At the time I joined a running group last year I was still getting back to fitness after children and needed something to kick start my fitness.  Fast forward a year and I’m probably in the best shape of my life.  Wednesday night club runs are one of my regular runs and the pace is fast.  Well at least fast for me.  Sometimes I manage to keep up with the leaders for a few km and then I usually find myself at the back.  Most of the time I don’t mind but last week I found it really disheartening.  After a very busy day I was mentally just too tired to even feel like trying to keep up. 7km later and we got to the end of the run.  I looked at my Garmin watch and what did I discover ?  I’d run at an average pace that was much faster than usual.  All through the run I thought I was running slowly but in actual fact I wasn’t.  My disheartened state was simply because I was comparing myself with others.

I learnt two important things that night:

  1. Perception is everything
  2. Comparing myself to others just isn’t helpful

Perception is everything.  It sounds obvious but the way I think about something directly determines how I experience it and my achievements in that area.  I’m running slow – I feel disheartened and like giving up – I run slower. I’m not good at x – I feel disheartened – I get worse at it.

If I think differently: I’m running fast for me – I feel good about my ability – I run faster than my average pace. I’m good at my job and I’m capable of learning what I need to progress – I feel confident and capable – I achieve more

Comparing myself to others just isn’t helpful.  There are many faster runners in my running club (and a few slower ones) and if I constantly compare myself to them I will get disheartened and this will have a knock on effect on my ability to run.  If on the other hand I compare myself only to me it is much more beneficial to my state of mind.  When I think that when I joined the club I ran 5k in 38 minutes and now it’s 28 minutes that makes me feel pretty damm good ! 

Sometimes we all need to remind ourselves of how far we’ve come whether that’s in something like running or whether it’s in work or business.  Seeing this positively helps us to move forward far more effectively than thinking about all the things we can’t do or are worse at than other people.  Sometimes when my coaching clients come to me with a particular problem I ask them to visualise a day when everything is going exactly the way they want it to.  Imagine yourself being the best you can and use that to work out how to get there. It’s a much better way to maximise achievement than focusing on problems or comparing yourself to others. 

Perception is everything – in running, in work and in life. 

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. this is excellent Katie, well done x

    1. Thanks Caroline. Running with RunFitMum has been very inspiring. You & Sasha should be very proud of what you’ve achieved 🙂

  2. Interesting post – made me think how powerful perception can be to our mental health. B

    1. Thanks Bridget – I agree – the way we perceive things has a real impact on how we think and feel about ourselves and our lives.

  3. Oooh love this Katie. So very true. Made me really think about how I judge myself day to day. Thanks

    1. Thank Sasha, glad to hear it was thought provoking.

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