I have written before about how much I love running on Saturday morning with my friends. We met up this weekend after a long hiatus over the summer, when everyone was busy and going their separate ways. If you hang around with people who like to run, sooner or later someone will try to recruit you for a 5K. Or a 10K. Or a half-marathon. Or a whole marathon! How about a corporate challenge? A relay team? A muddy sneaker? An inflatable 5K?
Though I greatly respect those who choose to participate, I have never been interested in doing any of those things. I like to run for the sake of running, and I have absolutely no competitive spirit about it whatsoever. I have always thought this was because, growing up, I was just so miserably bad at sports of all kinds that I lowered my expectations of what I could achieve in the arena of sports. And because I never had that drive, it just really doesn’t matter to me if I win or lose when it comes to a race or a game, or anything else sports-related. But I always wondered if it was something else. Maybe I am afraid to fail? Afraid of embarrassing myself? I know I’m afraid of the ball. Ball sports are not my friend.
Just for kicks, the other day when I was running I turned on the Map My Run app, just to see what kind of distance I was running with my usual neighborhood loop. Of course, the pleasant lady-voice interrupts your music every mile to confirm that you have just completed another mile, and to let you know your pace and speed. I have to tell you, I didn’t like that pleasant-lady voice, who told me that my average pace per mile was 10:03. I felt like I was running waaaay faster than that. I was clearly motoring down my subdivision here, ruling the road, and she is talking smack about me. What the heck, pleasant lady-voice? I turned her off halfway through my run, because I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life. I noticed that my mood changed the moment I turned her off. I went from feeling stressed and judged and worried about how fast I was running, to just free to enjoy my music, the movement of my body, and my mounting endorphins.
I had a moment of clarity while running the trails this weekend. I think the reason that I don’t want to do any kind of competitive running is not because I am afraid of failure or that I have just embraced that I am bad at sports. I think that I am just so tired of being measured.
It seems like almost everything in my life is measured somehow. And as a woman, I feel the pressure of society always trying to measure me.
There are apps to measure my calories. Color-coded boxes to measure portion sizes, if you are so inclined. Dress sizes and jean sizes and bra sizes, all with their own brand of stigma attached to their numbers. Measure my pace with a running app. Measure my popularity with Facebook likes or the number of hits on my blog. Measure my success by my salary. Measure my productivity by the amount of revenue and RVU’s that I generate at work. Measure my steps with a pedometer. Measure the quality of my sleep and my activity level with a FitBit. Measure my weight, always attaching some judgement or action plan to the number that is displayed. Measure my progress and my potential. The message is that the these numbers somehow add value to me, like I am just a placeholder or an incomplete equation, that needs more numbers to add or subtract or multiply me to determine the sum of my worth.
As a woman, I am told to count my steps, count my calories, count my carbs, and count my blessings. And I am just so, so sick of it.
I totally bought into it though. The world imposes all these measurements on me, but I buy into them hook, line, and sinker. I do it to myself, just as much as the world does it to me. I have the apps, I think the thoughts, and sometimes I also judge others by these arbitrary measures.
So as I ran on the trails, and let myself just be there, steps uncounted, mileage unaccounted for, no training goals–nothing but me and the trees and the sun and my friends.
It was simple, beautiful, and perfectly unmeasured.
I’ve decided that I’m going to try to measure less. Not just me, but other people too. And when people try to measure me, I am going to try to remind myself of my immeasurable worth.