Dust is once again collecting on my shoes. As I squint in the fading sunlight, I can hear my breath over the sounds of the highly under-rated Harvey Danger. After several months off, and several weeks of another take on the Couch to 5k program, I am getting close to where I was around this time last year, when I was in better shape than I am today. But, I have clawed my way back today.
Over the sounds that wall me into my own head, I detect the crunching of someone else’s footsteps. After a few endless seconds, a figure in red passes me on the right–then one in blue. The man and a woman–around my age–pass me handily. I want to speed up, but I already know how it will feel at the end of the run.
Then I start thinking about comparisons: I never feel it’s wise to compare myself to others. I know that where I am at my stage of life is a result of a complex, indeterminable series of variables and interpersonal connections. There are an immense number of factors that can have immeasurable impact on a person. The mere flap of a butterfly’s wings, metaphorically, can put me in a different place than someone else who starts the same thing at around the same time.
So, why can’t I make that connection with running? Because here I am, comparing myself to two complete strangers. For all I know, they’ve been running since high school. For all I know, they’re running an entirely different program to me: shorter sprints, compared to my longer runs. For all I know, a million other things are different.
A few paces ahead of me, Red and Blue stop at a bench–she adjusts her socks. I pass them handily. It’s not for another quarter-turn around the reservoir until they pass again, then stop and leave the path.
Perhaps with a little more time, I’ll let myself off the hook.