Catch up:  The Road to Chicago (i.e. what to expect from this series)      |     Marathon Base Building     |     Week 1 Recap     |     Week 2 Recap

Paces. That seems to be what my mind has been obsessing over for most of Week 3.

Keeping it up for a tempo run. Keeping it down for easy runs. Keeping it consistent from one mile to the next.

And then of course, the part I hate to admit affects me but it does:

Comparing my paces to others🤦🏻‍♀️

Rationally I know I shouldn’t. I know that what someone else’s body is able to do has zero effect on my own. And yet still I fall victim to comparison.

When it’s people in the same physical space who run faster than me, I’m fine. In fact, I seek out those people (eh hem, Karen) for my speed intervals so I have someone to chase. Running with people faster than me has helped me improve my speed and overall fitness quite considerably. They push me in a good way and I’m determined to only let so much distance between us. Incidentally, if they pick up speed on an interval, that means I do too.

In a race scenario I am also not phased when someone passes me. In fact, I actively say to myself:

They’re running a different race than you. Same course, different race.

It may sound a little silly but it’s true. I have no idea what their goal is so comparing my performance to theirs would be ridiculous. Maybe they’re trying to do positive splits (i.e. faster on the first half, then slower on second), or place in the race overall. Unless I know that up front and have the same goal, fretting over someone passing me does me zero favors and quite frankly takes the fun out of the race.

Important Caveats

Racing is fun. Running is fun.

However, when I see people posting their paces on Instagram (where runners live online) I cringe. I cringe even more when they say things like, “Well, that was a super slow run. I felt like I was slogging it out at [insert pace under 9 min/mile].

Why does this bother me so much? Because what’s missing from their statement is “for me.”

“Well, that was a super slow run for me.”

I think it’s so important to share that caveat when it comes to paces because quite frankly, all paces are relative.

Relative to how we are built, how much rest we got the night before, weather conditions, and overall what we are able to perform at a given time. All of those things mean paces vary greatly from one person to another. Running 9 minutes or less per mile may be slow to one person and lightning fast to another.

Yes it’s on that person reading to not let it affect them, but guess what friends? We’re all human and sooner or later we all fall victim to the comparison game just as I have this week.

What happens next is that running becomes less fun. Training becomes even harder because paces and how you are doing compared to others is all you think about.

By publicly downplaying  a particular pace as “super slow”, the person who isn’t running that fast could feel even more defeated. For that reason, I avoid sharing my paces publicly. I want everyone who wants to run to find the joy in running. It has brought so many great things and people into my life and when we really get down to it:

Forward is a pace. 

Finding the Joy

After a few runs this week where pace occupied my mind, and doomsday scrolling of Instagram runners only making it worse, I actively (see what I did there:P) worked on reminding myself of a few mindset mantras that get me through:

                            1. Comparison is the thief of joy.
                            2. I don’t have to do this. I GET to do this.

Comparison is the thief of joy

When we start comparing anything about ourselves to another, particularly something we love doing and/or consider ourselves good at, we are playing with an emotional landmine. We are letting the accomplishments and hard work of another downplay our own strengths and work. Why?

This is truly ridiculous to me. I would never tolerate a runner friend being down on their running by comparing it to anyone else. If you run, you are a runner – whatever pace. Period.

So why was I letting myself be down on my running because it didn’t measure up to someone else?

I have been crushing some new paces lately that, even with the insane humidity, are both doable and sustainable. It feels great to run fast (for me). It feels great to hit what I consider to be high mileage. Who cares if my definition of “high mileage” is not someone else’s? It’s high for me and that’s what matters.

With all these thoughts running through my head about other people’s paces, how my paces compare, what pace I need to keep mile-over-mile for tempo vs. easy runs, I took a step back and reentered my approach to Friday’s run.

I had 6 miles on my plan and I set out to run them based on effort, my favorite way to train. No looking at the watch until the mile marker clicked and showed me my pace for the last mile. Guess what happened? I had fun. I sweat through my shirt, dripped down the riverwalk and had FUN.

I also ended up with negative splits. All because I took a minute to refocus on what I know to be true for me:

I love to run and no matter what pace I am going, I AM a runner.


I don’t have to do this. I get to do this.

There is a reason I only wear my Garmin watch when I am running. I don’t want all the round-the-clock data. I don’t want to be obsessing over numbers and how they compare day after day instead of tuning into how my body actually feels.

Being in tune with my body is what told me to go to the hospital those 11 years ago when I didn’t know what was going on with my heart, but I knew something was wrong.

It’s what got me through cardiac rehab and re-learning to run safely.

It’s what allowed me to learn the difference between an elevated heart rate due to pushing beyond my comfort zone vs. another heart attack.

It’s what has kept me a (mostly) injury-free marathoner as well. When things start to hurt, usually on a long run, I do a full body scan and think:

Is something injured or is it just hard/tired/sore?

Hard, tired or sore I can push through. Injury is a sign to stop because I’m not just in it for that run. I’m in it to run until I’m 80+.

I headed into Saturday’s long run sore. I skipped a proper rest day this week in favor of working out at OrangeTheory with a friend for some cross training and oh man did they work me out! Add in the additional toll Friday’s race-pace run had on my legs and I wasn’t feeling my freshest come Saturday at 6 a.m.

Saturday’s final mileage – sore legs and all!

Nonetheless, I needed the miles and I knew I felt sore, not injured so I set out – in the rain. At various points of that run, my thighs (and I mean the entire hip-to-knee scenario all the way around) started screaming, but I persisted because…I CAN to do this.

In those moments, I thought of how hard it had been for me to emotionally handle being unable to physically walk one block without getting tired after my heart attacks.

I thought of how anxious and unsettled I felt for four weeks after my surgery in March when I had to take a step back from running, desperately waiting for the doctor to sign off on me running again. Any distance, any pace, just to be able to run is what I wanted.

I thought of all the people who’s physical limitations will forever prevent them from running despite how much they want to or how hard they would be willing to work to be able to.

Each of those thoughts put my mid-long run discomfort in perspective.

I have worked hard to come back from each physical setback and will continue to remind myself of that each time it gets hard in this training cycle. I do not want to take my physical ability for granted.

Final Thoughts

Comparison truly is the thief of joy and I don’t want to participate getting robbed anymore.

Yes I want to run faster. I’m chasing a new PR for this marathon, a fact I cannot deny. Achieving it is going to require me to pay more attention to my paces than I have in the past.

At the same time, I am trying to focus on how it feels to run at my target race-pace so I can (hopefully) find a balance between keeping the tempo I need for the PR without obsessing over the pace on my watch.

When people say a marathon is more a mental challenge than a physical one, this is the kind of challenge they are talking about.


Channing Muller is an award winning marketing & public relations consultant and the principal of DCM Communications, based out of Chicago. She works with event professionals and business owners to grow and scale their businesses with refined marketing strategies developed through one-on-one and group consulting, customized marketing programs and public relations. She has been named a "25 Young Event Pro to Watch" by Special Events magazine and "40 Under 40" by Connect Meetings. Channing is an avid runner, lover of Labrador Retrievers, good food, delicious drinks, and an advocate for the American Heart Association.

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