Yesterday during my first six-mile run since last June, a middle-aged woman stopped me as I passed her driveway and wouldn't let me leave until she gave me a bottle of water. I had just reached mile 5 and was definitely feeling it, so when I finally agreed to take the water I said something along the lines of, "I just ran 5 miles," and she responded by embracing me in a big hug, despite my sweat and probable stench.

Now, there are two possible reasons this woman was compelled to give me water. 1. She is a kind mid-westerner with a hydration obsession, or 2. I looked like Hercules swimming to Hades. My guess is the later, because I was moving pretty slowly at that point.

I am a slow jogger, averaging 13+ minutes per mile, and I'm sure a lot of people would be discouraged by this, and sometimes I am too. I have been running for a few years now, to differing degrees of seriousness. Last summer leading up to my October Half Marathon that I ended up enjoying from the sidelines with my foot in a walking boot, I was very discouraged that I wasn't getting any faster. I was trying interval training on the treadmill, and I figured with the sheer volume of running that I was doing, I should have been getting faster. It was frustrating, and I was constantly comparing myself to other people's running speeds. With everyone else shooting for an 8 or 9-minute pace on longer runs, I was hoping to god I could get mine up to 12. It was tough because with all of my running, I felt I still couldn't be taken seriously as a runner.

Now that I am training for a Half once again, I am consciously making an effort to keep my thoughts from going to this dark and unproductive place. It's hard to remember that the only person you should be comparing yourself to is yourself. When I look back to where I was two years ago, that girl would have thought running 6 miles was virtually impossible. She couldn't run 3 miles, and she usually gave up without trying. I might be slow now but I'm in so much better shape than I was when I graduated high school 30 pounds heavier than I am right now, and when I graduated college, unable to run a mile. Comparing myself to anyone other than myself is a waste of time. Wherever you are now, you should be proud of yourself, especially if you are making an honest effort to become healthier, or stronger, or happier.