I'm writing this whilst riding high on a wave of contentment after spending the weekend at Brighton Marathon Weekend with the ASICS Frontrunner's. Reflecting on the weekend, my mind kept coming back to the insurmountable power of community in running.
This was the first time I had met my team mates in person and I took great pleasure in hearing about each individuals experiences, goals, hopes and dreams for the weekend races and beyond. The depth of diversity and talent was clear from the off and we relished in sharing stories of our own journeys in the wild world of running.
In a situation like this, the mind naturally slips into a comparative state. They say comparison is the thief of joy, but the weekend joy was sacred and nothing was going to steal that from me.
Social comparison can have a hugely detrimental effect on self-esteem, leading to inevitably poorer mental health, feelings of inadequacy and overall skewed perspectives on the self. It's easy to become immersed in others people's successes and lose sight of your own. In short, social comparison is a bit of a cognitive minefield.
As in most cases, the silver lining is that the mind can be manipulated to interpret comparisons in favourable ways. An easy task in the right circumstances, with kind and genuine people who's focus is to lift others. Using comparison in a positive way can facilitate self-improvement and provide a hefty dose of motivation to pursue your own goals, not to mention do wonders for aiding positive mental health. What I affectionately like to call, the 'better together' approach. Luckily, being a part of a community that oozes support and encouragement creates the perfect conditions for adopting a positive and healthy mindset.
Most runners will know that this sport can have you soaring on cloud nine and then kick you back to the gutter with no rhyme or reason. It's humbling and character building, sometimes you need the helping hands of others to pull you back to your feet, dust you off and keep you smiling.
Being part of a community of like-minded people, that appreciate each others capabilities, whether you're on top of the podium or getting collected by the sweeper, DNF or DNS, runner or cheer squad; is a luxury but thankfully not a rarity in running. It negates the need for comparison and enriches the experience. There's a warmth to knowing that those around you care and that notion is stronger than any old comparison thief.
Inspired by and dedicated to ASICS FrontRunner UK team and their incredible achievements.
Mental Health Nurse from Sheffield