I think maybe it is simply a human thing. Survival of the fittest coming back to make us all crazy. And it manifests itself in the oddest of places.
Have you ever been at the gym, running on a treadmill or some other machine 'o'torture, and up pops "Workout Barbie" complete with the tight little belly button sporting a cute little diamond naval ring and somewhere deep inside this switch gets turned on. You peek over at her treadmill to read the mph, and either get an insane sense of pleasure that you are trodding along faster than her, or innately bump your speed up to match hers (or exceed it) even if it means ending your workout 10 minutes early because you are too exhausted to continue?
Where does that come from? What happened to running for the joy of running? What happened to wondering in the awesome beauty and power of your very own body? Come on ladies, life, quite literally, blossoms from our loins! When did we stop seeing the miracle in what our very own bodies can do?
It seems these days women (well, all of us) are in a constant state of striving. Which is not all bad, striving to improve yourself, your health, your well being, your life situation...all good things. But somewhere along the way it gets all confused and suddenly we are striving to compete with the person next to us or the lady down the street. And where is the joy in that?
I recently took up running and started training for my first half marathon. I am proud to say after running my first half marathon, that I am truly a mid-packer. But throughout my training, I had to constantly battle the internal voice that told me I was too slow. "You're not running fast enough," it would say, "You are gonna get picked up by the sweeper." The truth is I was never, even though I stopped to take an entire roll of film on the race course, in danger of being picked up by the sweeper. I could walk and not be picked up by the sweeper and yet, in my head I had that constant dialogue. It was truly a battle to keep it from getting the best of me, from defeating me before I ever started.
As I got further into the sport of running, I was introduced to "The Penguin," John Bingham. The man has been an inspiration to the mid and back of the pack running community for years. His favorite saying is,"Why run a marathon in 5 hours, when you can run it in six." He actually spoke at the Pre-race pasta dinner I attended before my first race. It was not until that moment that I realized what I had been doing to myself. Instead of taking pride in my accomplishment to that point, and being in awe at the wonderful machine I had at my disposal, I was obsessing over the rate at which said machine would run a completely inconsequential race. It was what Dr Phil would call my lightbulb moment. The moment at which running for me became much more about the joy of movement and much less about the competition of it.
At about mile 11, I had what The Penguin calls my "I'm actually gonna finish this!" moment. I suddenly realized at that point two things: 1) I was actually going to finish this, and 2) I was actually enjoying the run! It didn't matter what my pace was or what my place was, I just let go and smiled all the way to the finish line.
Now I am training for my second half marathon and I think I have developed a life long habit of getting up before the crack of dawn and carving out my very own "me" time. I cherish those early morning runs and the opportunity to watch the sunrise on a new day. The time to take a little time out of my speedy life, to slow to a jog and witness the miracle of my environment. I try to do most of my runs outside ,though, away from the gym, because for all of my newfound transcendental wisdom, if “Workout Barbie” steps onto the treadmill next to mine I can't help but peek over at her machine, and once I do, the joy of running goes right out the window, and the race is on....