Almost every day, I read anxious posts about feeling bad for running too slow, not far enough, or guilty for not running often enough.
Unsurprisingly, most of them come from female runners.
Running (like any exercise) can be addictive and the appetite for running further and as frequently as possible, can become insatiable, but steady on...
Where does this guilt and pressure we put on ourselves come from? How much of it comes from our internal strive for perfection and how much stems from comparing ourselves to fellow runners, whether in local running clubs or social media communities?
I guess for most people, myself included, it is a bit of both.
It is human nature to compare ourselves to others in the running community, but we have to be careful that we compare apples with apples and don't feel inadequate because of our speed, mileage or frequency of training. We are all different, and even when two people start running at the same time, their results and training progress can be hugely different, due to body composition, body mechanics, running technique, nutrition and many other factors.
I have no doubt, that this feeling is what pushes a lot of runners to increase their training load above what their bodies are able to cope with, which results in injuries, and even more anxiety due to not being able to run. The pressure doesn't ease off and often people don't let their bodies recover fully and are struck with more injuries.
Exercise is good when it makes you feel good. Comparing your weekly run stats 6 months from taking up running, with those of an experienced ultra runner is not constructive, completely irrational and definitely not helpful. By all means challenge yourself, but make sure it is within a range you are ready for. Use a training plan which includes runner specific cross training and an appropriate number of rest days and be consistent. And even then, when life gets in the way, in the form of illness, work or family commitments, or simply a day when we are just not feeling it, make sure you don't force it, and don't beat yourself up about it. Tomorrow is another day.
So most importantly BE KIND to yourself and BE PROUD of how far you have come. Celebrate every achievement and every PB, but also let go of the guilt for choosing to listen to your body and taking a day off.