A Perspective on Perspective

02/28/2018 - 16:36

By Scott Ludwig

I realize it’s difficult for a runner to talk about running without ‘dropping numbers.’ After all it’s practically impossible to tell someone what you’ve accomplished in a pair of running shoes without them. (I’m still talking about numbers here—not runners because some run barefoot, wearing sandals, etc.).

It wouldn’t make much sense to tell your neighbor you ‘ran a race of considerable distance’ because that’s about as vague as telling them you don’t pass gas much. Rather, stating you ran 6.2 miles in less than 60 minutes and your pace was just less than nine-minutes per mile makes much more sense and is a lot easier for your neighbor to grasp. Plus any neighbor who isn’t tuned in to running is going to find your accomplishment impressive, mainly because you were able to do something they can’t (and most likely because it’s something they’ve never done and have no inclination to ever try) and have no earthly idea if your accomplishment is good, bad or indifferent.

This is where I come in.

But what if you had a neighbor who ran track or cross country in college and was at one time capable of a 32-minute 10K? While this neighbor may not find your time impressive, any runner (or former runner) worth his or her salt will congratulate you nonetheless. Because that’s what runners do: They support one another, even if they have to bite their collective tongue to do it.

What do I mean by ‘bite their collective tongue?’ It’s actually quite simple. If I’ve learned anything over the miles and the years I’ve been running it’s this:

No matter what you’ve accomplished in your running career, there’s someone else who has done it longer, farther, faster and more often than you ever dreamed possible.

Here are a few examples to illustrate my point. Feel free to use them later to put your thoughts and impressions about running back into perspective. After all, that’s been my intent from the start:

· Runner A tells a neighbor he drove his car to the garage to have some work done, ran the 17 miles back to his house and would run the 17 miles back to the garage when his truck was ready. Runner A’s neighbor just so happens to be a friend of Ray Zahab, who ran 4,660 miles in 2006 across the Sahara Desert in 111 days (an average of 42 miles a day).

· Runner B tells a neighbor she ran four marathons in the past 12 months. Runner B’s neighbor just so happens to be a friend of Dean Karnazes, who ran 50 marathons in 50 consecutive days in 50 states in 2006. Runner B’s neighbor also knows Larry Macon, finisher of 239 marathons. All in the same year (2013). Not to mention 2,000 over the course of his life.

· Runner C tells a neighbor he ran every single day for an entire six months. Runner C’s neighbor just so happens to be a friend of Mark Covert, who completed a 45-year streak (that began in 1968) of running every day. Runner C’s neighbor also knows Jon Sutherland, who assumed the longest active running streak in the country less than a year after Mark Covert ended his in 2013.

· Runner D tells a neighbor she managed to complete a 100-mile run, the ‘hardest thing she’s ever done.’ Runner D’s neighbor just so happens to be a friend of Ed Ettinghausen, who ran 40 races of 100 miles or longer, all in the same year (2014). Runner D’s neighbor also knows Mike Morton, who ran 100 miles at a pace quicker than eight-minutes per mile, not to mention covering just over 172 miles in a 24-hour event on another occasion.

· Runner E tells a neighbor he qualified for the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run. Runner E’s neighbor just so happens to be a friend of both Tim Twietmeyer (25 sub-24 hour finishes at Western States including five overall wins) and Ann Trason (14 wins at Western States).

Obviously in all five of these examples exists an entire spectrum of performances between the numbers the runners ‘dropped’ and the accomplishments of the various friends and acquaintances of their respective neighbors. As I said before when you are talking about running you always need to keep things in perspective because there will always be someone who has done it longer, farther, faster and more often than you.

Unless someone specifically asks you for your numbers … time, distance, pace —it doesn’t matter … it’s wise to keep them to yourself. Don’t expose yourself to the risk of being ‘one upped.’

It’s a game where no one wins.

Just remember: When it comes to running the only one you have to impress — the only one you need to impress — is you.

(Scott Ludwig has been an avid runner since 1978; in fact the last day he didn't run was November 29 of that year — he's run every day since. Scott is the author of 13 books, nine of them about running. His latest book, Running Out of Gas was released in January 2018 by Meyer and Meyer Publishers. His books can be found in Barnes and Noble stores as well as on Amazon. Scott lives, runs and writes in Senoia, Georgia where he lives with his wife, Cindy, and their three cats. In his free time he enjoys being 'G-Pa' to his grandson Krischan, something he's been training for his entire life.)

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