How Social Media Skewed My Thoughts of Running Fast

When I first started running I had a blog.  I created my blog about a month after I decided to run for my college team.  It  was not big by any means nor did I have the connections and friends I do now from it.  My blog allowed me to vent about my new found love for running and meet people who also shared a love for running and working out.

One of my first half marathons (Flower City, Rochester).  I was in the top 10 with a time of 1:38 and I was proud...on another note that top gave me the worst chaffing I've ever had in my life.

One of my first half marathons (Flower City, Rochester). I was in the top 10 with a time of 1:38 and I was proud…on another note that top gave me the worst chaffing I’ve ever had in my life.  (that face is chafe face)

When I first started running I was also in my own bubble.  I watched countless races where amazing local heroes in my area crossed the finish line in 17-18 minute 5ks.  I was in shock of how people could run that fast.  To me they were my only inspiration.  They were people I strived (and still strive) to be like.  The only athletes I came into contact with were athletes that I saw in road races.  It’s funny looking back because now I routinely talk to these people rather than oogle over them at races.

Now as I continue to blog it’s different.  I have raced in several states and seen several athletes that I strive to be like.  Then there are also the athletes I have never seen that strive to be like.  On twitter I’ll read a race recap weekly about  a female (or a few) that I’ve corresponded with that has ran a sub 1:20 half marathon like no big deal…15 minute 5k…that is their time.  Each result will impress me whether I am near to someone or far.  When reading race recaps and reports the version of “fast” becomes skewed. 

My first overall win at the Plattsburgh half.  1:27.19 and I was also proud.

My first overall win at the Plattsburgh half. 1:27.19 and I was also proud.


When I first started out running, fast at a local race would be winning.  There may be one or two females that run a 1:20 half marathon at a single race.  But then if there are a few half marathons that weekend, you can broaden that horizon and 10 females that I have chatted with have run a 1:20 half marathon.  To me 1:20 is simply incredible.  (let alone those running even faster…)  Is it within my reach?  Maybe one day…maybe in a few years.

Running my 5k PR (18:30).  I know it's good and fast for me.

Running my 5k PR (18:30). I know it’s good and fast for me.

It often makes me think of my own personal records.  Am I selling myself short saying that I won a half marathon when I ran a 1:29? Or once that I ran a 22 minute 5k and got 3rd overall?  Before getting on social media I would have no problems bragging…I won this race in a 1:29.  Now I don’t want to be showy because I know if someone else had shown up they would have won.  The fact of the matter is they didn’t show up and I won.

I see this in a lot in races and on social media.  People are afraid to say I won or got a place in my age category.  Instead of saying I won and my time was X, it is said I won and my time was X but no one “legit” showed up.  Stop fooling yourself if you participated in a race you are legit.  Whether that race is a mile or 100, you are a legit runner.

Look...real runners everywhere!

Look…real runners everywhere!

So while local races give you a glimpse of a single group of fast athletes…social media connects you to thousands.  It’s almost overwhelming.

Where do this all connect to me? I have to personally remember that I am still running for myself.  A sub 19 minute 5k is still an amazing race for me.  Though it might not be the best for someone else, it’s a great time for me.  My times and personal bests are for me and me alone.  How much I run, what I do, is only benefiting me.  It’s hard to keep your own personal training at the forefront of the mind when it’s so easy to compare and connect with other faster and more elite runners.  The fact of the matter is there will always be someone better or faster.  You should use them as a role model and inspiration rather than comparing.

Question for you:  Who are your inspirations and role models? 

45 Comments on “How Social Media Skewed My Thoughts of Running Fast

  1. You know, making a huge deal out of times and placing takes the fun out of it. My husband recently started running… he is not a fast runner by any means. I mean, you can look at him and tell that he is a former football player and has a great sprint, can squat and lift TONS of weight, but running 3 miles is very tough for him. He still loves it. The other day we did a race and he got 3rd out of 3 in his age group and said the same thing! So it’s not just women comparing, guys do it too. I said to be proud, out of all the 25-29 males in the Charleston area (obviously lots of guys!), only 3 showed up to give that trail 5k a shot and he was one of them.

    I’m not super fast (not “slow”, but definitely nowhere near the sub-20 5K mark), but you gotta remember too, everyone’s life and priorities are different. I know some faster runners, older people, who are retired so really that is all they have to do, train and run. People have told me to up my mileage to 50ish a week and I’ll really improve, but I just can’t sacrifice that work time (money!), family time, other responsibilities. You just have to do the best you can with what you have! And everyone’s situation and everyone’s best is different!

  2. I think you hit it right on the money with “My times and personal bests are for me and me alone”… fast/slow is all subjective to other people. It’s what YOU do and how you compete with YOURSELF that matters.

    In all honesty, you are definitely a running inspiration to me. You can juggle life’s chaos (helllllo government shutdown post poning your move) and still be a badass on the road! kudos to you <3

  3. My heroes are all the sub-90 half marathoners and sub-3:30 marathoners. Because you are all amazingly fast and I can only dream of doing that someday. I’m especially in awe of folks who pull off those splits at the end of half ironmans and ironmans. Incomprehensible.

    I struggle with qualifying any win I get, but like you said – the faster people didn’t race that day, so no win for them. It’s still awkward when people are like “WOW YOU WON YOUR AGE GROUP” and I’m like “yeah…cause everybody else was racing another race that day.”

    • My hero is you because you are the most badass triathlete with a strong career, powerhouse women I’ve ever met. And also because everytime I brag about you to my dad he asks if you are going to do the swim again. (or which swim you are going to do next…).

      • Oh shucks, do I get a trophy? The 2 mile swim might actually happen this summer, as long as it doesn’t conflict with AG Nationals. No Chesapeake bay swim this year, though. Eagleman (a half ironman) is the same weekend. #rage

  4. You said it right, it’s all about who shows up. Great post! You’re a tad faster than me…I’m catching up!

  5. Yeah I struggle with this a lot. Reading a lot of running blogs definitely changes your perception of fast. To me anything sub-20 for a 5k is fast, sub 1.30 for a half is fast…then when I talk to people at my running club and have a moan about times after a race they get affronted because to them I’m fast. It’s all relative. There will always be people out there faster than you. Always. So I compare against myself and no one else. Sure I use other people as motivation and inspiration, but ultimately it’s me and my legs and no one else.

  6. A note about ‘oh no one good showed’. Two great running quotes address that feeling:

    1) “You need to look back, not just at the people who are running behind you but especially at those who don’t run and never will… those who run but don’t race…those who started training for a race but didn’t carry through…those who got to the starting line but didn’t in the finish line…those who once raced better than you but no longer run at all. You’re still here. Take pride in wherever you finish. Look at all the people you’ve outlasted”- Joe Henderson
    2)”The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” -John Bingham

    Basically both are saying that showing up is part of the battle. People have different fitness, time to train, life priorities, natural talent etc etc. But if you show up to training, show up to recovery and show up to race then every achievement is 100% yours.

  7. I agree with you here! I actually started reading running blogs before I started running, but I found “faster” bloggers later. In a way it takes away from enjoying your own, personal successes. No matter how much I improved, I was several minutes behind many other bloggers – sometimes on the same weekend or in the same race. So I automatically compare my time with others, and I’ve never contentedly thought, “Best race I could have run”.

  8. There are so many faster athletes I look up to–including you! Anyone who can run a 1:30 half and 3:30 marathon is a serious boss. And it blows my mind when people can post those times running off the bike. Totally crazy. And yes, I struggle with owning my race results and simply saying, “I placed X in my AG” or whatever. My go-to disclaimer is “there was no one in my AG.” Which isn’t always true, but as you know, there aren’t a ton of women who compete in our AG.

  9. There are so many runners out there who are faster and stronger than I am, and it’s easy to try to compare my race results to theirs. It’s a huge trap, social media exposes us to runners who we might not otherwise come into contact with, I think it’s naturally to initially compare oneself to others, to want to be “fast” like everyone else seems to be. But, we all have our own stories, live our own lives, and countless things affect our running and our training. My slow might be someone else’s fast pace, and they are working just as hard as I am. My fast pace is someone else’s walking pace, and I’m working just as hard as they are to get there. I will never, ever, in a million years win a half marathon, unless no one else shows up, and I’m ok with that. The positive of social media is that I know people who will, and I can celebrate their success, because I’ve seen how hard they train and work for those races. That’s pretty rambled and I seem to have lost my point. :)

  10. I find inspiration all around me – especially on social media. To read and see about others chasing after it every day is such a feeling of community.

    Fast to me used to be the thought of running sub 10 minute miles. Now I consider myself fast when I am in the high 7’s low 8’s (and those are usually speed workouts ;) And also fast…trying to run 9 min miles for a sub 4 marathon Saturday! Sure I have speed envy for others but what is so exciting about running for me is how personal it is. I can train harder and longer and figure out my own full potential. That is what keeps me going. When I sub 4 for the marathon, I will chip away until I BQ. I will give it my all. Sure seeing people train at my hard paces sometimes makes me jealous/envious but I also know I bust my ass out there day in and out to run what I am, and that makes me plenty proud.

  11. This is a great post. I think people sell themselves short on their own accomplishments for fear of someone saying, “Great job, I was proud when I met that mark too”! They completely lose the whole idea of setting PRs and bettering themselves.

  12. Well, this post covered a lot of the mixed emotions I’m feeling right now. Social media absolutely messes with my perception of ‘fast’ running. When I first started following blogs, I was SO chuffed with myself for running a 3:40 first marathon, simply because the bloggers I followed were running 4 hours plus. I thought I was pretty fast, but then I realised I was just average really. Now I find it hard to be pleased with any performance…like Anna above, I regard a sub-1:30 half as fast, and personally I’d say a sub-3:15 marathon is fast. To me, for something to be ‘fast’ it has to be regarded as such by the majority of people, particularly runners. It’s lovely for people who don’t really understand running to think you’re an Olympic standard athlete for running a 3:20 marathon, but sadly that’s just not the case. I still feel a fraud for winning a race with that time, even though rationally I know that I was still the best of those that turned up on the day.

    I will admit that seeing people who used to be slower than me suddenly get faster than me really messes with my mind, particularly if those people treat their bodies like shit (well, even more than I do) – I just doesn’t seem fair. I do know that there will always be people who are faster, leaner, etc. than I am, and I do want to work on finding the runners that ‘get’ to me motivational rather than upsetting in the future.

    I must admit that if I was regarded as ‘slow’ I wouldn’t race. I’d run, but not race…because a huge part of racing for me is the competitive aspect, and I had enough of placing last throughout my schooldays.


  13. It’s so funny that you mention this because over the summer I did a 5K race series (3 events) which was scored by points depending on your times and I wound up winning the 30-39 age group for the full series. I was actually surprised (yes! I won!) and then the race director told me the lead girl didn’t show up to the 3rd race. I was kind of bummed at first because I felt as though I didn’t “technically” win. But then I thought to myself – I put in the effort and showed up to all 3 and she didn’t. If you don’t show then how could you ever win? It all depends on who is at that start line on any given race morning.

    I’m definitely inspired by runners who put in way more effort than I do and who can run fast. But, I think I am even more inspired by beginners because it’s a scary thing when you first start. Putting yourself out there and committing to it is a difficult first step to overcome.

  14. To which I reply, HOLY COW YOU’RE FAST! Haha I have my 25 min 5K and as someone who doesn’t run consistently, I’m perfectly content with that :) Be proud of your times.. you’re awesome!

  15. Comparison is vicious, and in the end, the only person you should be comparing yourself to is yourself. Are you getting faster? Are you getting stronger? Are you reaching your goals? If yes, awesome, if no, make adjustments… that’s pretty much all there is to it. There’s no sense in comparing to others because there’s no common ground — some have more natural abilities, some train harder, some have good circumstances, some have bad ones… there’s no baseline. As for me, at this point I’d be happy with running a 5K without walking breaks, even if it took me forever ;)

  16. Fantastic post! I think we as runners (or endurance athletes of any kind) sell ourselves short when communicating to both online and offline communities about our success, or even just about an event we participated in. I know I do, especially with family and friends who aren’t runners; people who just don’t get it. What I am working on is being proud, in a confident way, about my endeavors because you know what? I worked my butt off! We should not feel ashamed or “crazy” to people who aren’t a part of the community (likely jealousy is at play here), or try to dumb down any race results just because we may feel inadequate next to someone faster. the beauty of the running community is that everyone genuinely celebrates ALL finishes and accomplishments – and we need to remember that! :)

  17. Great blog post Hollie! WIth a few tweaks and a new approach to training, you could certainly become a sub 1:20 half marathon or a sub 18:00 5ker.

    • Thanks Dennis for your confidence. I think after I have my first marathon under my belt (and after some rest) I’ll probably change my training and focus on shorter races for a while.

  18. Holy Cow! YOU NAILED IT!!!! I ran my very first BLOCK almost two years ago to this very day. I ran my first mile a few weeks later. I clocked an 18 minute mile! But I did it! 7 marathons and two years later, my fastest mile was a 5:55 at the San Antonio Rock & Roll Marathon last year. Since getting into Triathlon just a few months ago, I’ve noticed my pace decrease dramatically. I find myself hiding in shame now and embarrassed to even look at times myself and wouldn’t even think about posting them on my fb! THANK YOU for the wake up call. I needed it. I should be more proud of my accomplishments and myself. Sometimes we can be our worst enemies.

  19. This is great. I think it’s a really important message, too. I let social media skew my perception of what is fast, even what is “acceptable”! Hell, I don’t even talk about pace sometimes for fear that other people will think it’s inadequate, even when I know that it’s the best I could do for me at that time.

    I’m inspired by everyone who tries hard at what they do. I mean, I’m inspired by talent, but I’m more inspired by effort. :)

  20. I may compare myself to others but Not with working out and running! I compare myself to my old times and weights. I’m still super happy when my miles are under 9 min!!!

  21. I look up to fast runners, but the most inspiring people to me are those who set big goals (BQ on first try) or go for big PR’s. It’s impressive to me when people start out average, then have big gains. It shows that the person wasn’t just blessed with natural ability, but also works tremendously hard.
    Your post is very timely because I was just thinking about this exact topic. I’m about to run my 2nd marathon in 17 days. I’m aiming for 4:10, which would be a 22+ minute PR for me. While that in itself is huge, I still had this voice in the back of my head like, “4:10 is SO slow! Everyone you know has run faster than that!” I had really convinced myself of this, until I went back to read a friend’s recap. I thought for sure that she had run better than 4:10 in the spring, but it turned out that they ran 4:20. Unfortunately, we can be our own worst enemies sometimes. Also, I’ve place in my age group at several small races and I’ve definitely said the “oh, the fast people didn’t show up” thing. I’ve recently reorganized my races by distances so I can better see my own progression to try to counteract the negative thoughts.

  22. Whilst social media can be great for support and accountability. At the same time it can bring us down if we are having a bad day. There will always be people out there that are faster than you, but at the same time, always so many people that are slower than you. It should very much be all about the you and your performance on the day. Block out everybody else and their results. Did you perform to your best ability? If you did, then you deserve the place you get.

  23. You hit the nail on the head with this one….great post! Running is relative. I find that the lower my times get, I seem to still be in the back of some group of people. But, hey – what can you do? Running is a personal sport. Running is, first and foremost,supposed to be fun!

  24. I can definitely relate to this. I was running for a while before blogging, and blogging as definitely changed the way I see things. When I first started 5ks and such, I picked small races and usually placed well. I would go home and brag how I won (In a good way) regardless of the fact that it was a 21-23 minute time. Now a days I guess it would e hard, you are right there is the “need for justification” I won or placed because no one else was there that day.

    This sport is incredibly relative, and I think the hardest part is explaining that to non-runners. I’m pretty sure some non-runner friends thought I qualified for the olympics or something this weekend (ahhahahahahahhaha) because 3:17 sounds like impossible to them….but when I mention it to runners…they know it’s fast but I’m no elite.

  25. I definitely agree! Plus, if someone wins but “no one legit showed up” who knows how much faster they could have been if the so called “legit” person showed up and they had someone else to race! No use in comparing, just be happy with what you can do and strive to be better for YOURSELF! Love all your posts this week!

  26. The last 5K I did, I finished in 36 minutes. This was a PR for me and I was so proud of myself. I can honestly say that it is the first time I didn’t think “Well, my cousin finished a good 15 minutes before me” (which she did). I managed to say to myself that I did an awesome job. Two full years ago, my first 5K ever I did in 48 minutes. That’s shaving some time. :)

  27. I really enjoyed this post. Most of the running blogs I regularly read are by runners way faster than me. I am always thinking I have to run more, run faster and do it NOW. I am trying to focus on having fun running 5ks right now, trying to PR, and running another half marathon in the semi-near future and just enjoy it all as I go instead of making running, which is something I should completely enjoy, just another thing I stress out over in life. I am glad you wrote this, thanks.

  28. I just read your comparison post and this in them same 20 minute period and they go really well together. I think you are really focusing on just being happy with you right now. Am I right? I miss you girl!

  29. Loved this. I am really hard on myself. I won a 5k this past weekend with 19:27 but I kept thinking, oh the course must have been short. Plus, the 2nd woman came in around 22….soooo it’s not that much of an accomplishment. But, youre right, it is.
    it’s also hard to read blogs of fast people and wonder why I cant improve as fast as them. Sometimes I have to stop reading blogs for awhile. My half and full marathon times are really slow when I use the McMillan calculator that says where I should be or when I look at other people’s times who have similar 5k and 10k times. Maybe I need to unplug from running stuff

    • It is such an accomplishment! I agree though it’s always hard for me to watch people improve running lower miles or at different speeds. That makes me want to compare as well.

  30. This is a great post and you’re hitting on a big topic that extends beyond running. Social media allows us to compare ourselves to EVERYONE in EVERY aspect. It is making ourselves feel less in many ways; jobs, relationships, possessions, etc. Its so hard not to compare when access to comparison is so easy!

    I am trying to take credit for my big wins, but I have prefaced with the “this was a small race so thats why I placed first”…. and that shouldn’t be okay. A place is a place, a win is a win! And fast for me is a thing to be proud of :)

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