Humans have a deep-rooted and innate need to measure themselves against a spurious set of metrics or values, almost always setting unachievable goals for success.
I can give you a few examples… No matter what car you drive you will always be looking at the next, better purchase (I actually did some research in to this many years ago, the car buying cycle is possibly the greatest example of consumerism gone mad!). You move in to a new home, how long before you’re thinking about extending or maybe looking for something with a bigger garden? You leave the gym and open Instagram to post your latest sweaty selfie and there is a torrent of abs, tans and handstand press ups for you to aspire to in your feed…
We ascribe value to these things, the faster car or bigger house or better body, and we set our selves up for repeated failure in the pursuit of these ideals.
Running can be the same, indeed for some at the elite end of the field the only metric for success is stepping up on to the podium. But for us runners back in the pack, the social runners and club runners, it may just be the best source of success we could have.
It’s very rare we run “to failure”. It’s common in physical training to keep pushing that tin until you can’t possibly lift it any more, that’s a perfectly legit recognised training pattern and it works. But not in running.
For us, we set ourselves more realistic targets, and we go out and achieve them with metronomic regularity. We step out the door for a 5 mile run, and we don’t come back until we’ve run five miles. It may not be as quick as we’d hoped and there may have been a few more walked road crossings than we’d wanted but we have hit our goal, we ran 5 miles. We have a training session to complete, 10 x 400 metres, so what do we do? We run 10 x 400 metres and achieve our goal. Maybe one or two were a little off the pace but the goal has been reached. Running brings us these little successes on a regular basis and that’s why we keep lacing up and heading out.
I accept that there are occasional hiccups, a run cut short for example, and there will be those who’s values are such that missing a target time is the end of the world, but for most of us most runs are a big fat W in the result column, a win we can celebrate. The best bit? We can win again tomorrow, and the next day and twice at weekends.
In a world designed to make us feel insecure running gives us the security of knowing we can achieve what we set out to, even if we do come back to the old car parked outside our small house.