Don’t compare your running times


Don’t compare your running times. Comparing yourself to other people can be a dangerous thing.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s motivating and inspiring when other people do well. Sometimes it can give us a boot up the backside, and this is great when goals are achievable. But it can also be dangerous, especially when we start obsessing.

I like running because it is so personal. A slow time for one runner may be a personal best to another runner, and a long-term target for another runner. And that’s ok, we’re all at different levels and that’s another reason why running is such a friendly sport, when you go to a race, everyone really wants everyone else to finish and do well and everyone recognises that everyone is running their own race.


Helen & Lindsay Belfast 10k
Lindsay and I ran our own race in Belfast


Some people may find it useful to compare their times to a friend of a similar ability. But peer-to-peer comparison isn’t always a good thing! I have a friend who runs, who I always used to strive to beat. We were a fairly similar ability, my times were fractionally better simply because I had a kick-ass sprint finish (for a 10-minute miler) and could break at 400m to go and hold it. I ran a sub hour 10k before she did. I smashed through a fast 5k and actually managed a third place gender finish at parkrun one day, a good couple of minutes faster than she did. But then she started improving and our times became very similar again. Then I got pregnant, had a baby, struggled to lose weight, suffered after effects of SPD…and she was better than me again.

Georgia, the digital editor at Runners World pointed out that she’d lost a lot of confidence in her running due to comparing herself to others. And this is where it got unhealthy for me. I kept comparing myself to my aforementioned friend. Which was ridiculous. My body had changed and I hadn’t run in a long time. I beat myself up about the fact that she was that much better again. The point I’m making, we all have different reasons for running, we all have different bodies, we all have different mindsets and we all have different lifestyles. To quote Fleur, “We are all unique, at different stages of our lives & accommodating different circumstances.” So comparing to someone else is only going to serve to make us feel bad and make us blind to our own personal progress. Between July 2014 and January 2015, I took my post-baby 10k from 1:21 to 1:06:34. Now, that’s some progress. But instead of focusing on that, I felt sad that my friend was running 1:02ish and had no confidence in myself.


Don't compare your running times. Run your own way.


Now, I can look at that and can compare my own 10k times to previous 10k times and feel happier. I don’t feel I’m running that well at the moment, running 1:05ish or so. Yet I can take this time and compare it to 2 years ago and feel delighted by my progress, that my current not running well is still a huge improvement on then. That’s a positive comparison. Comparing to my friend and feeling bad about myself is not. Purely Amy  elaborated on this slightly, saying that she has short lungs and finds it hard to keep up with her “non-runner” boyfriend, agreeing that she shouldn’t be comparing herself to him.

As Runners Knees points out, “you should never compare yourself to others, in running or otherwise. We are not in competition really”.

So stop comparing yourself to other people and think about these things instead:

  • You are unique

You have your own fitness level. You have your own reason for running. You have your own body. You are not the same as everyone else. So why should you expect your times to be?

  • Set your OWN goal

Don’t set your own goals based on other people. What do YOU want to achieve? What is an achievable goal for YOU?

  • Track your OWN progress

Don’t feel sad that you don’t think you are progressing as quickly as other people. Look at your own progression instead. You’re not in competition with someone else. Why does it matter how quickly or slowly someone else is progressing? Forcing yourself into irrational competition can only lead to a loss of confidence, or worse, injury from trying to do too much.

  • Stay positive

Running sucks sometimes. We all have runs we hate. We feel slow, or we are tired, or we can’t get our breathing right and we hate it. Get over it. These runs make you stronger. You went out and you did it and that’s what matters. And for all those hideous runs, we also get an awesome one. There’s a lot of variables in running and a bad day is just that, a bad day. And that, folks, is why I say, don’t compare your running times.

Do you compare yourself to other people? Does it help or hinder?

One thought on “Don’t compare your running times

  1. Yep, fully agree. I find running a very personal thing and to compare to other people takes all the joy out of it for me. There will always be people faster and slower than me. All I want to do is run without injury and enjoy it. I hardly ever set goal times anyway as I much prefer goals like “do X number of parkruns” or “do all the marathon majors”. I find that way more satisfying.

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