I can. And I have.
I can run more than 10 miles. And I have run as many as 12.
I can participate in races and walk away with a sense of accomplishment. And I have run in a 5K and two 10Ks and come close to or accomplished my goals in each of them.
But then again, I can't. And I haven't.
I can't run more than 20 miles. And I haven't.
I can't run a 5K in under 20 minutes. And I haven't.
But you know, one thing...
I don't and I won't.
Care, of course. I don't care that I am not the fastest guy around. I don't care that I am not a specimen of speed, nor that I have not yet developed my long-distance runs to the point that I can knock out a 20-miler. I may someday, it may be relatively soon, but if and when that happens, I won't have fretted over it.
See, I like to set goals based upon my abilities. I like to make goals that are realistic. Challenging, yes, but realistic. I'm not going to run a five-minute mile. I'm just not. But you know what? I don't care. So what if some of those who will also run the same half-marathon I'm running in are shooting for and will finish in less than 90 minutes?
Sometimes, it's easy to feel as if you aren't progressing, that simply because you haven't met someone else's expectations you are failing. It's easy to get discouraged if you can't meet a standard that others like you meet. I did well in my last 10K to finish in 52:55 but I can guarantee you that if some other 33-year-old guys finished in that time they would have been embarrassed.
So what? It's my time, my work, my effort and I'm proud of it.
I try never to discourage people or minimize others' steps. I think I can run my half marathon in around two hours, possibly between two hours and two hours, 10 minutes. But I'm not going to feel superior to someone who will not finish in under two hours, 30 minutes, or someone who takes three hours or more to cross the finish line. Nor will I feel inferior to someone who completes the race in one hour, 30 minutes or faster.
We're all in the same race but we're all running to meet a different standard, a different goal and challenge.
So you've tried to lose weight and you've only dropped two pounds in a week or two? You've tried to run a 10-minute mile but can't get it under 11 minutes? Focus on the positives. You're dropping weight. You're out there running and you're almost there. Keep at it. The important thing is to challenge yourself and be true to yourself. If you are true to yourself and you put in the necessary work and dedicate yourself to yourself, you will get there. If you get there quickly, great. If it takes you longer than others, that's fine, so long as you get there.
I was a bit discouraged the first time I ran my 5K. I strayed from this way of thinking, even though I hadn't quite developed this at the time. I had been running for a few months, maybe less, as I'd signed up for the Mud Run. I felt like I needed to compete in a race before that, that I needed not only the experience of a race but to train for it, set a goal, challenge myself, all that good stuff that races bring.
It was May or so, and I luckily found a 5K right near my house. It was in a nearby city, maybe five miles away or so, and I immediately signed up for it. Now, keep in mind, I'd just recently knocked out the final pounds of my 120-plus and was trying to venture out into running - running! - which was a completely new experience for me. I still consider myself a beginner now, imagine back then.
I was excited to run in a 5K, excited that I was going to participate in an actual race. I think the last race I'd run in was a relay race in fifth grade. So I told friends and family about it. I told my brother who had gotten me into the Mud Run and has been into working out for years, but he inadvertently shot down my excitement.
"A 5K? Meh, you should run a 10K."
I was floored. Instead of the "Hey, that's great! A race!" reaction I had gotten from others, I was instantly upset and hurt. I can't remember if I told him or wanted to tell him this but my reaction was "you run a f-in' 10K."
What bothered me the most was that I felt I wasn't living up to expectations. I felt that perhaps I should have run a 10K instead of a 5K, even though I'd only run more than four miles once at the time and could not handle three miles or more very well. In the end, though, I decided to do what's right for me, not for anyone else. So my brother can run a 10K? Great! More power to him. We actually ran the 10K together and he did well. He finished in under 50 minutes, which is great and I was proud of him. I didn't remind him once that a lot of people, including some very young races and others much older than him smoked his time, because that doesn't matter. Yes, it's a race but I'm not racing against them. I'm not racing against anyone but myself, my own expectations.
I plod along at my own speed, make goals and reach them at my own pace. My pace might be too slow or too fast for others, but that's fine. As long as we're all moving in the right direction, that's fine.