Running can be the most life-consuming sport there is. There’s a line between a hobby and an obsession, and sometimes having something as an obsession can take the fun out of it.
Personally, I don’t see running as an obsession of mine, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking of it regularly or making choices because of it in my day to day life. Especially with Hastings Half marathon coming up at the end of next month.
Overall, I’d certainly say I take the sport seriously like tens of thousands of others in the UK. Seriously to the point where it affects what I eat and how I prioritize my spare time.
The problem with competitive running is that it’s purely a comparison sport. You can honestly drive yourself crazy with websites like “Power of 10” by comparing your times against other people. At running clubs there’s often a kind of unspoken hierarchy relating to what times members can run.
Football, a more subjective sport, isn’t as black and white. For example, I could make a slide tackle in the box and then boot the ball upfield. To one coach that might be impressive and a sign of determination and desire. To another coach it might be a sign of rashness, “why was he going to ground in the box” and “why didn’t he play a simple pass instead of clearing the ball up field?!”
Also it can be so hard to stop thinking about your next race; planning every kilometre – what splits am I gonna hit and when?
Although I said at the start I don’t think I’m obsessed with running, on the build up to Cardiff 10K I probably was. I remember walking to work every day and visualizing crossing that finish line and what time it’d say on my watch when I did so.
The week before the race I even tricked myself into thinking I was ill with an asthma problem (although if the summer of 2018 was anything to go by then those thoughts at least some credibility). Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I was so obsessed with this race that I constructed this fake illness for myself and proceeded to panic about it – how silly is that!
Luckily that turned out to be a great race and I got the time I wanted. Another example of me over stressing is when I ran a parkrun a lot slower than I expected to when I was going for a PB, this really got me down. I didn’t look at it rationally and think, “okay I haven’t really done any training this week, that’s why my time was slower than usual”, instead it was just beating myself up about it and for going on a night out on the Thursday.
Here’s a link to said blog: https://hazatrand.com/2017/05/20/parkrun-review-200517-its-time-to-reassess/
Getting a PB or meeting your targets in a race is amazing, but I think too many competitive runners get into a mindset where they make unnecessary sacrifices just to get a better time on a spreadsheet. Work hard sure, but at the same time enjoy life!
Another website that can lead you down rabbit holes of comparison is Strava. A classic thing that I do is compare my training against someone running similar times – especially something I started to became engrossed with in 2019 – weekly mileage!
I’m running about 35-50 miles a week at the moment. Yes someone might be achieving better times than me with half the mileage (and even worse times than me with double the mileage), but realistically why should that concern me? When I was playing football there was no such comparison, it was just a case of “what position do you play” and “which club do you play for.”
At the end of the day running is just a hobby for most of us – its a great way to stay healthy but it won’t earn us money or strengthen relationships with family and friends (sometimes quite the opposite).
In the long term staying healthy is important, but finishing above someone on a spreadsheet that gets posted to a website isn’t. Running is great, just make sure it doesn’t dictate how you live!