What is progress anyway? I’ve been thinking a lot about the notion of ‘progression’ recently, but have I been judging progression based on the wrong criteria?
Runner’s Definition of ‘Progress’
Without getting too technical, ‘progress’ is defined as ‘forward or onward movement towards a destination’. As runners we tend to add an extra clause onto that, though: ‘forward or onward movement towards a destination, that is a PB, that I put a lot of effort into’.
I got faster quickly when I first started thinking about, and applying, structured training for running. To begin with, PBs were all I cared about. But then, as tends to be the case with these things, the initial ‘progression’ slows. At that point you have to evaluate why it is that you’re doing something: to validate yourself, or for something more than that?
A Deeper Purpose
Now when people ask me about running I answer pretty differently. I avoid talking about my PBs. Some of you may have noticed that I have removed them from my bio on Instagram. Not because I think people should remove them. I follow some based on times because I want to learn how to train like them to achieve something. But because they weren’t serving the purpose I initially intended them to. They had become a bragging-right. Something that I think can be really toxic. If someone asks me about a PB for a certain distance, I’ll answer, because the chances are they’re trying to work out if we could train together or learn from each other. But I won’t offer it out voluntarily.
A Host Of Benefits
When people ask me about running I tell them about what running has brought to my life in the last six months. I think it’s pertinent to list them here:
- I’ve met more like minded people, who I can talk to about running and so much more, since July than I have in the last five years.
- My confidence has accelerated incredibly and now instead of being the person at the party who hides in the kitchen and talks to the same people, I actively attempt to talk to new people (even if sometimes I end up with major foot-in-mouth syndrome).
- I’ve learnt the importance of investing time into something. Academically I knew how to do this, but my university education didn’t provide the tools as to how this would translate into real life. Hard work can be just that – hard, but ultimately worth it.
- I say ‘yes’ to almost anything. People laugh as I never ask questions, but running has stoked the fire in me that craves newness and wonder and adventure. The more I can experience, the happier I am. So if you ever need anyone around for the ride, I’m your girl.
Progress Depends On Your Objectives
The list goes on. But the point I’m trying to make is that ‘progress’ is what you make it. If you just rely on ‘progress’ equating to PBs, then you’re setting yourself up to fail. All the above (and more) add up to the bumpy ride of life. If we really want to get technical, then I don’t even think ‘progress’ is the right way to look at it. It’s a value-laden term that suggests we should always be trying to better ourselves in some way. It suggests that we can’t be happy with how we are, and means we are always looking towards the future.
So one thing I would suggest is trying to forget the word ‘progress’. Focus on the present, feel the moment, and if you want to keep an eye to the future, then great. But don’t wish your life away. Enjoy the moment. The good runs. The bad runs. The PBs. The foam rolling. And I have a hunch that if you do that, you might notice that the future looks a lot brighter than it did before.
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