What am I talking about?
Have you ever run a race? Let’s just say a 5K. And then, have you ever told another runner about completing said race? What happened when you did? Did they tell you about another race you should do? Maybe a race that’s longer, or has obstacles, or is in a costume or overnight? This is exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve gotten peer-pressured into running obstacle course races, half marathons, marathon relays, and overnight races, among other things.
I’m not totally innocent either: I’ve peer-pressured my family and friends into doing all kinds of running-related activities. I’m not proud. Exhibits A-Z:
That’s right: I’ve signed my family and friends up for obstacle course races, international races, road-trippin’ races, half marathons, and really… I’ve lost count of all of the other things. Madness!
I recently chatted with my friend Tamieka about this after a yoga class. We talked about how easy it is to compare yourself to other runners and to try to do the next big thing. I guess it’s kind of a mixture of peer pressure and Runner’s FOMO.
I’ll give you an example: Earlier this year, I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler (CUCB 10). This is one of my favorite races! It was the first longer-distance race I’d ever run. (Look at how happy I was that I entered my first race lottery and got in.) It’s a 10-mile run. Ten miles! I could run to my job and back and still not hit 10 miles. That’s a pretty big deal, right?
Well, when you surround yourself with other runners, it becomes “just 10 miles,“ “not even a half marathon,” or “not that long.” Worse even, it’s the, “well, if you loved that race, you’re really going to love this other race.” It’s ridiculous!
Why do we downplay our successes? Why don’t we take a moment to reflect on and enjoy a moment of gratitude to our body, taking some pride in our mental fortitude?
The day I ran the CUCB 10, I met up with some friends at the finish line, and we headed out to brunch. I distinctly remember them congratulating me and telling me they were proud of me, and all along I was, “oh, it’s not that big a deal, guys! I’ve run this race before! I’ve run longer than this.” Blah blah blah. All the livelong day.
When we got to the restaurant, the waitress asked what I had just done. (I was still wearing my medal. Swag.) I told her and she was super impressed! She thought I had run a marathon, and when I explained that it wasn’t, she basically corrected me for acting like it was nothing.
“Girl, do you know what time it is? Half the people around here are just waking up, and you’ve already run a whole race!”
She was right.
I don’t know what it is about hearing something from strangers that you’ve heard a billion times from people you know, but what she said really resonated with me. What the heck was I thinking?! Some people cannot run even if they want to. Some have no interest in it. For some, walking a mile is a longterm goal.
Full transparency here: Running is something I do for enjoyment, clarity, and fitness. I’m never trying to place when I participate in a race, and that’s okay. I have fallen in and out and back in love with running over the last 8 or 9 years. I’m running again because I love running again. And you know what? No matter how long I’m running or where all that matters is I’m freakin’ doing it!
Now, let’s run it back to peer pressure.
While the pressure from other runners to do bigger, bolder, scarier, and longer races has caused me some amount of fear and self-doubt, it has – most importantly – caused me to step out of my comfort zone and see what I’m truly capable of. If I never ran my first 10k, I would’ve never run my first half marathon. If I never ran my first half marathon, I would’ve never run my first overnight van relay. If I hadn’t run that race, I definitely would not have run a Ragnar Trail overnight race, which is hands down one of the scariest things I’ve ever done with fitness but was also one of my proudest moments.
For me, the key to dealing with runner-induced peer pressure is going to be focusing less on feeling like I should do something because everyone else is doing it and more on whether I want to try to challenge myself in a particular area. Sometimes I need a little push (or even a big one) to do something out of my comfort zone that will actually help me grow as a person. Other times, I need to be a bit more realistic. I’m not a person who loves physical risk, and I’m not in the best shape of my life, so I have to say, cool it sister to myself from time to time.
[On a related note, check out this TED Radio Hour episode about risk-taking. I heard it last week and it is part of the reason I decided to start writing this post!]
I have some exciting adventures ahead in 2020, and I have my runner friends to thank for a lot of it. At the end of the day, the runner peer pressure is more “let’s run a marathon!” than “let’s eat these Tide pods!” though some might argue that they’re equal parts crazy. I do have fun running and I do like seeing what my body s capable of achieving. I could think of way worse ways to peer pressure someone!
If you’re one of these runner friends who has peer pressured me, thank you. I needed it and I didn’t even realize it.
If you’re one of my family members or friends who I peer pressured into doing something physically demanding because it “looks cool,” I’m sorry, I love you, please forgive me.