Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors.
Try to be better than yourself.
I thought about this while running my 17k around The Tan this morning.
My goals when I run are always i) to finish, ii) to finish without injuring myself then or later, ii) to run at or below a set pace, and iv) to enjoy myself and enjoy being outdoors. So while plodding around my 2nd of 4 laps of the tan I ended up randomly drafting behind two ladies who seemed to be out for an easy Saturday run together (*checks watch – doing 6min kms*), chatting away about work, boyfriends/husbands etc. For the rest of the time they were running I decided to slot in their wake and let their energy draw me around for a lap or two, not terribly worrying about my own time, just eves dropping (did I say that??) and enjoying the sun warming the morning sky. I wondered if I should thank them when they finished their run and I continued on, but there isn’t really an etiquette for that I think, and it may have been a bit stalker-esque.
My 3rd lap of The Tan saw me run through a swarm of runners collecting at a start line for an 8k time trial. I was curious to see if it would be an ‘out of the gate’/’all guns blazing’ affair where I would find myself engulfed in the path by the swarm (sounds like a horror flick, I know). I think the Faulkner quote rests partly true here. Each of the runners in the time trial was trying to better their own personal time, yet I suspect there was an element of competition as well. I don’t think competition is a bad thing. I think it helps us better ourselves. I noticed how the passing speedsters affected my own running. Before running through the time trial my pace was approx 5.40-5.50 mins/km. Then 5-10 mins into the time triallers passing me, a glance at my watch informed: 5.05 mins/km.
Sometimes we do not necessarily seek to be better than our contemporaries, even when in a competitive environment; however our contemporaries, simply by being a yardstick or a mirror of potential ourselves, drive us to be better than we often allow ourselves to be.