How social media skewed my thoughts of running fast
I created my blog about a month after I decided to start running. My running story has been a journey filled with highs and lows, and you can read my entire running story here. A few years into blogging, I wrote a similar post to this. Even in the last two years since writing the first post, social media and running have advanced more. My thoughts on running have advanced as well.
When I first created LOLZ Blog, it was not big, nor did it have the connections and friends. I did not know that so many amazing and talented runners from all over the world existed!
I first created the LOLZ blog to reflect upon my personal journey of running. It started with a 12-minute mile, and 5.5 years later, I am here today. My blog also allowed me to meet people who also shared a love for running and working out. This was before there were hundreds of blogs, and blogging became an advertisement platform.
When I first started running, I was in my own bubble. I watched countless races where local heroes ran 17-18 minute 5ks. The first 5k I ever ran was in a time of 30 minutes! I was in shock at how people could be that fast. To me, these local athletes were my only inspiration and the people I strived to be like. I never knew elites were running 14 minutes 5ks. It’s funny because now I routinely talk to these local legends and fangirl them at races.
Five years later, running and blogging are much different. I have raced in several states and have seen and met hundreds of inspirational athletes. With race results readily available, I’m no longer in a single community with a single running inspiration. I have many running inspirations, some I have met and some I have not. When reading race recaps and reports, the definition of “fast” becomes skewed. Do I consider myself fast? What exactly makes you a “fast runner”? What is the standard? Why does it even matter?
The athletes running the Olympic Trials marathon this weekend are fast.
The athlete that won a local race is also fast.
The athletes finishing their first race are fast.
My definition of “fast” will always be different from someone’s else definition.
With so many different social media platforms, I think: Am I selling myself short saying that I won a half marathon when I ran an X? Or once I ran a (bad race for me) and got 3rd overall?
Before social media, I would have no problems bragging about a race…Now, I don’t want to be “showy” because I know if someone else had shown up, they would have won. The fact is they didn’t show up, and I won. Now with social media and website forums like letsrun.com, your results are everywhere. People with lots of credentials or even no credentials are judging performance.
With race results being judged so quickly, I can’t imagine the pressures of being a professional runner.
One of the most common questions a runner will receive after a race from a nonrunner is:
Did You Win?
Runners are afraid to say they won or were placed in an age category. Instead of saying I won and my time was X, someone will mention “I won, but”…Adding but just adds a backhanded compliment to yourself. Whether there are ten people are 10,000, if you won, you won. Even if you didn’t win, place, or just had a bad race, you still ran.
So while local races give you a glimpse of a single group of athletes…social media connects you to thousands of athletes of every speed and ability. It’s overwhelming.
Where does this all connect?
Social media is here to stay. Runner or not, everyone is plugged in and connected. It’s important to remember everyone’s definition of progress and perception of fast is different. There is no need to compare yourself to others or even to yourself! It’s hard to keep your personal training at the forefront of the mind when it’s so easy to compare. There will always be someone better or faster. You should use them as a role model and inspiration rather than comparing.
If you are out there and running, you are fast.
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Question for you:
Who are your inspirations and role models?
How has social media changed your training?
Yep, I totally downplay any and all triathlon-related accomplishments. I justify it by telling myself people don’t really care when they ask, “how did it go?” Sure, maybe I did well, and maybe I won my AG and placed overall, but do they really want to hear about it? By now, most people have realized I have a tendency to do this and will directly ask if I won my AG. 🙂 Plus, even though some people say I’m fast, I know how fast those girls are who perform at the elite level … and I am definitely not there yet … it’s all about perspective. 🙂
I like this post a lot, Hollie. I think social media can have a huge bearing on your perspective on and perception of speed. I think the more races I’ve run, the less I worry about what others think is fast…maybe I’m also just more comfortable with myself as a runner.
Great great topic ,
I love to run, it my 3rd year,
I love to read all the social media and see how everyone is doing in their running. There a lot of runners I look up too, mostly local runners, Dave welsh,Tim pagano, marc pelrin, collene,ashley, carrie,abel and you of course, you guys are elite athletes, and you guys have a lot of respect for other runners, and very knowledgeable. Am I fast , nope,i do good for my age group which is 45-49. It a privilege to be on the same course or race with you guys. Watching you guys run in the 15s,16,17,18, in 5k keeps me motivated to keep working hard.
Happy running hollie..
I think social media perpetuates the comparison game…and not just in running, but all aspects of life. People don’t tend to highlight the bad, only the good. You might not hear about that terrible workout where they could barely make it through a few miles, but you will hear about their PR. That’s why I love this blogging community, because I feel like most people are honest about the good AND the bad. I think its also hard not to compare yourself to yourself! I look back at some very old PRs and remember how easy they used to come, and its hard not to beat yourself up about it. Love this post!
I would definitely agree that most people only post the good. It makes comparing relatively easy in any aspect of life.
Well, I started slow and have stayed slow, although at least I have improved.
Social media can be frusting — AND rewarding — for the slow runner. It’s full of “I’m so slow, I ran an 8 mm” while that is something that I can’t even dream about. Seriously, ain’t gonna happen. I’d be beyond the moon to go out for an easy run and have an 11 mm! Probably ain’t gonna happen, either, but I keep working on it.
OTOH, I have connected somewhat more with runners who are more like me. They’re harder to find — it’s hard to brag about your 12:30 mm long run in a sea of 9-10 mm long runs, and that’s a shame and why I continue to post my times. To show other slow runners it’s ok, we’re out there and we’re trying and we’re runners. too.
Great topic! I always have a hard time saying when I place because I’m definitely not a “fast” runner. One time I got 2nd in my age group at a half-marathon that I ran in 2:15. Probably the only time a 2:15 half ever got 2nd lol but I’ve learned to still enjoy the moment because we’re all althetes and if you are the best that day then you deserve it 🙂
I love this, I am by no means a fast runner but I love running and reading blogs like your encourage and motivate me. I’ve followed your blog for a while but didn’t realise you ever started with a 12mm, you deserve to brag about where you are now and shouldn’t have to at the ‘but’ 🙂
I always appreciate your support and advice Angela. Thank you for stopping by 🙂
Social media (and blogging) has definitely skewed my perception. There are so many faster people out there. For me though, it’s less about how fast and more about what a “normal” distance is. It seems like everyone runs a million miles a week in blogland whereas in “real life” it’s much more reasonable. It’s hard not to get caught up in all of it. But I don’t really think much about the speed thing because growing up, when I started to get faster at swimming my dad would constantly remind me “there will always be someone better and faster than you.” It helped me stay grounded and focus on myself rather than worrying about the person next to me.
Preach sister! This is such an incredible and timely post.
I didn’t know much about running before I started reading blogs, but I was definitely in awe of how fast people were when I was seriously struggling with a 10mm at the beginning. I don’t know that I’ve gotten TOO much faster than that, but I’m totally okay with not being the fastest. I mostly run for enjoyment anyways, so as long as I’m feeling good, I consider that a win.
I completely agree with this, because every runner is SO different. There is no one size fits all, and I have to remember that God created me to be me, not anyone else. Social media is powerful, but it’s not the basis of truth.
Thanks for this great post! It’s hard not to compare yourself to others posting running pics, fast finish times, and toned bodies on Instagram or Facebook, or whatever social media outlet you’re on. While some people are more humble than others, there are people who relentlessly brag online- posting certain photos every day and saying way too much. I think that if that’s a way to increase their self-esteem, then fine– but sometimes it’s too much! I just unfollow those people and move on. Bottom line: social media can be a great way to connect you with others, old and new friends, but sometimes limiting it, or being selective about it is a good idea! Thanks again for your post!
I appreciate it Jane. I agree that it is always best to unfollow people that aren’t really helping you succeed.
I obviously don’t blog much or have a huge following but I have been reading blogs for years and started mine as an outlet to talk about running and racing instead of boring my friends to death.
I definitely got sucked into a comparison trap – which escalated as instagram blew up. As a person striving to break 8 min miles in a 5K fast for me is relative. I used to compare myself to others times and training and bodies but gladly grew up (and have taken a HUGE step back from social media) and focus on myself.
For me I find the most inspiration from those who lead a similar life and balance training on top of the pressures of a full time job, commuting, relationships etc (more power if you have children and do all that as well!). And when I see those older than me kicking my butt in races – better believe I find that inspirational!
I love this & while I don’t add backhanded compliments to the end of my statements. Like I won my first race ever back in September, I won my age group in a triathlon!!!
But sometimes I’ll be busy doing speedwork & realize my 400M repeat pace is another bloggers FULL MARATHON pace & then I’m all womp womp womp. So I try to push that all out of my brain.
Ha I feel you about the speed work. There have been so many times I’ve compared myself to someone but at the end of the day, there will always be someone stronger, faster or better.
totally see what you are saying ! I was thinking about it this morning actually! social media can skew our views and attempt to change our thinking. i am still fascinated by those who run 80 mile weeks or more but realize that will never be for me so i cannot ever allow it to alter my routine or how i run.
The comparison trap is vicious! I feel like I forget most of the time that what is on display is often the highlight reel, or what the person sharing is comfortable making public and that’s usually a very polished version. I don’t necessarily know the behind the scenes, or the struggles and it’s unfair for me to make a comparison or pass a judgement (on myself or on them) without that full information.
I still do it all the freaking time though- the downside of being in such a social media connected world.
Good point Destiny, people normally share the most polished and best version of themselves.
I think we all just need to focus on doing the best we can for ourselves. Social media is a double-edged sword. Without it, I wouldn’t have known what a tempo was or wouldn’t have seen people getting faster and faster, and being inspired myself to work on improving. However, sometimes social media can make me feel down on myself, like I’m not doing enough if I took a rest day while it seems like everyone else is kicking butt in their training runs. I just try to focus on me and what my goals are. I grab some inspiration here and there, and I get off instagram and facebook when I feel like it’s affecting me negatively 🙂
It’s totally true — social media has skewed running. Not even skewed but it definitely makes us compare ourselves to others who we never would have before! Great topic to discuss.
It’s interesting Rachel because I do believe social media makes it so much easier to compare.
I can give you SOME idea how fast is fast!
I’ll do it for two events–the 5000 and the Half-Marathon—and I’ll do it only for Women.
!4:59 or faster (SUPER Elite–or WORLD Class)
15:00 to 15:29 (ELITE–ELITE National Class)
15:30 to 15:59 (Sub-elite)
16:00 to 16:59 (Has Elite potential)
17:00 to 17:59 (High Placer in smaller local races)
18:00 to 19:59 (Good average runner)
20:00 or slower (Average fun runner)
1:08:59 or faster (SUPER Elite–or WORLD Class)
1:09:00 to 1:11:59 (ELITE–ELITE National Class)
1:12:00 to 1:14:59 (Sub-Elite)
1:15:00 to 1:17:59 (Has Elite potential)
1:18:00 to 1:20:59 (High Placer in smaller local races)
1:21:00 to 1:24:59 (Good average runner)
1:25:00 or slower (Average fun runner)
I know the times given for the “Average fun runner”–or even the “Good average runner” SEEM fast, but when placed in the context of the Professional Elite (or even Professional Sub-elite) categories, those times become more logical.
I truly believe you can run MUCH faster than you have.
You’re on the right road now—in your seriousness of training, and your desire to be a “racer”!
Maybe being a middle of the packer I have a different view but I totally understand! I never consider myself fast, but others do. I always say how kind they are and move along. The journey for everyone is so touchy, I just like to focus on the experience.
love it, i tell my clients all the time to only compare their race times to their own times. my runner heros are defintely shalane & kara, meb, lolz–>seriously you are a fast runner.
Inspirational people: Ryan Hall, Meb, Shalane, and of course Lolz. Social Media has changed my running by providing me helpful tips and better training workout and I love reading about others adventures in running.
Being a slower runner, it is sometimes discouraging to see only “fast” runners on social media. It’s almost as though people are embarrassed to share their run at a 10-minute or slower pace. I might have a really good run at a quick-for-me pace of 9:30 but still not feel like it’s good enough to share because it’s so slow compared to what I see on social media. I sometimes wonder if it’d be better to unfollow runners on Instagram and whatnot just so I stop the comparison game.
That’s so cool that you started with a 30 minute 5k and are running the speed you are now!
I agree with you completely Kaci. I think unfollowing anyone that isn’t keeping you in a positive mindset is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Such a great post! I don’t consider myself to be very fast, but above “average” runner and I’ve won or AG placed in a few races and usually add that “BUT” when describing my race results. This is a great reminder to own my hard work and be proud!
I love this and am guilty of adding “but” after everything. I know what my fast paces are and for others, that may be their easy pace. I try to just focus on me when running and be proud of myself when hitting certain paces or goals and not compare myself to others. This was a great read Hollie!
Great post! It’s so hard to avoid comparing yourself to people in your social media feed. I enjoy SM to an extent- it’s a great way to connect with the running community, old classmates, even closer friends and family. But there are some people that just overuse or use SM to bolster their self esteem. I think it’s fine to post a proud photo or note, but when it happens every day, drives me nuts! Bottom line: pros and cons to social media, and I think that using it minimally is probably best.
It’s definitely hard not to be sucked in by social media. But I think we need to celebrate ourselves and our accomplishments, no matter what pace you run at. And definitely don’t be afraid to announce when you win or downplay it, a win is a win in my books!
Yes to this a million times over. It’s also hard to step out of the blog bubble and realize that there are truly not that many people who run the way we do or race the races we do. It’s easy to get caught up in “everyone is running races and faster then me!” when you spend a lot of time reading running blogs!!!…but I wouldn’t want it any other way 🙂
Great post. It’s really hard to not compare yourself. I’ve been down on myself for running less miles or only working out 4-5x a week. That’s still a lot! I’ve TOTALLY done the I won my age group BUT there was only X # of people. I should be proud!
Great post. I try to remember that to some I’m slow and to others I’m fast.
So impressive that you have come from a 30 minute 5k! But what’s more impressive for me is that you recognise everyone is a an individual and will have different goals and achievements, and that people can be working just as hard even if they post slower times. As long as there’s enjoyment in it that’s the main thing!
I’m usually embarrassed when I put run times or race results on my blog because I struggle with my speed when it comes to distance running but I do it anyway. I figure it will make folks who aren’t “fast” know that all that matters is that we’re out there doing it.
I would never be embarrassed. Your results and times are for you and you alone. Thank you for stopping by Rachel.
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