Two weeks ago I ran the Sequoia Glen 5k for the second time and it has taken me two weeks to find the courage to share what I want to share about this race. This isn’t a race recap, this isn’t even necessarily about the race I ran two weeks ago. This is about me as an athlete. This is about a scar I’ve had since my youth that still hurts to touch. This is about me, an athlete, speaking out and gaining closure on issues that have haunted me for years.
Two weeks ago I ran a 5k and I ran a faster time than last year by 40 seconds. I ran FASTER and I wasn’t satisfied.
The thing about being an athlete is that you are constantly on a quest for improvement, you always want to perform better but as an athlete if you get lost in the quest to be better you miss out of what it feels like to perform at your best, and that is the story that I want to tell.
Within me there is an innate desire to always be better, and better is a very vague term. I say I want to be better and then if I perform “better” it just doesn’t seem like better is enough. In the last two weeks I’ve spent a lot of time running, a lot of time beating myself up for running FASTER than last year on a difficult course, and a lot of time reflecting about why I am never satisfied with my running, and what I can do to fix the part of me that feels like my personal accomplishments are never enough.
With running I’ve never been good enough even at my best. Even on the days that I’ve performed my absolute best–the days I ran personal best times, days I’ve won races, days I’ve qualified for Boston, days I’ve completely crushed a challenging workout and I should be proud of myself, there were always people around me asking why I didn’t do better, or comparing my remarkable accomplishment to the performance of other, “better” athletes. I was never able to celebrate my accomplishments the way I deserved to celebrate my accomplishments because they were never good enough. The saddest part of this sad story is that I bought into the comparison game, I was a child who didn’t know any better. I didn’t know that it was okay to run a 19:30 5k and be ecstatic even if someone else ran 19:25. I didn’t know that success could be measured on a personal level, I was taught to believe that success was measured against the performance and accomplishments of other, better athletes.
I have a very vivid memory of a race I ran when I was sophomore in high school. I was running one of the fastest cross country races I’d ever ran at that time in my life. At the end of the race we entered the track and had to run 250 meters before crossing the finish line. As I stepped onto the track I was able to see a few other girls crossing over that finish line and my exact thought was, “this is my moment of glory but they are going to get the glory”. I’ll literally never forget that day. The memory haunts me and as I crossed the finish line that day I wasn’t happy or prideful for what I had accomplished, I was sad. I knew that my personal victory was never going to be enough. My moment of glory, my accomplishment just wasn’t enough. No one embraced that moment with me, instead I was compared to the other girls who ran faster. I was told I needed to be running with them. I was 15 years old and I felt ashamed for accomplishing something.
Two weeks ago I ran a 40 second course PR on the most difficult 5k course I’ve ever run, I deserve to be happy about that. I deserve to feel like I’ve accomplished something. I have to be enough for me regardless of what other people say, regardless of the support I gain or lose based on my performance. No one has the right to tell me I am not enough, no one can tell me my performance isn’t good enough, no one has the right to be disappointed in my performances because they belong to me and I am the one out there earning personal victories day after day. Two weeks ago I had a small victory and it took me two weeks of deep reflection to realize that for 16 years I’ve been mislead by the sport culture I was surrounded by in my youth.