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Comparison Is The Thief Of Joy

Thief Is The Comparison Of Joy Keara McGraw Run Tri Bike Magazine Contributor

I vividly remember finishing my last high school track meet ever. It was a warm day for NJ standards, June of 2003, and I’d just run the race of my life and landed in the top 5 in the state with a 2:14 800.

So ended the first wave of my running career. At the time, I didn’t know it, and I’d clung to that moment for years, trying to replicate it unsuccessfully.

Comparison Is The Thief Of Joy

I came across a quote the other day from Steve Magness, who I’m pretty fond of.

“Don’t get stuck in comparison mode.

Don’t look fondly at the glory days and think they hold some secret to success. It worked at that moment. That moment is now gone.

Focus on what you can do at the moment to get better. Not what worked or didn’t work in the past.”

Oof. OK.

I reposted it on Instagram and had a few replies, “needed that today.” Yeah, don’t we all?

Life Is Like Running And Vice Versa

Like life, running is never consistent in perfection for the long haul. I have ridden more running waves than I’d like to admit. I had seasons upon seasons that landed PR after PR. 

Then I’ve had seasons where the best I could manage was one or two weekly runs wondering why my body seemed to be giving up on me.

In those lows, it’s hard not to be stuck to the “glory days.” Because I mean, the glory days are like a drug; how could you not? They mean something different to each runner. Glory days could be wins; they could be PRs; they could just be feeling good on all your runs. 

Finding ways to manage your ups and downs and how to claw out of the down are skills you only learn by doing and being in the trenches. I’ve been at it for 30 years, and I “think” I’ve almost figured it out. Almost. 

When I was struggling on the roads, I returned to the track, where it all began. I had to let go of the glory days, but I could create new ones. I promise I will never forget the day I had the privilege of running in the same meet as my kid in front of a massive crowd of parents in a heat of 18 year olds. Was it a 2:14? Nope, but it was my best friend yelling in one corner and my daughter in another, walking away knowing I had an absolute blast.


Change It Up. You Won’t Be Disappointed.

Resetting your expectations and remembering to be present in that exact moment you’re in helps alleviate a bit of that comparison game that can rob you of much of that joy. It ain’t easy. Don’t let anyone tell you it is.

When we moved a year ago, I was trying desperately again to recreate the same running vibe I had in Tampa. After grinding my gears, I realized that wouldn’t be possible. How could it be? The friends were 6 hours away, the roads were quieter, and the running population is a little smaller on a tiny island. 

Onto the next wave I go. Reset, let go, and move on. Find a new groove. I had to find joy in solo running and reset my brain to workouts alone in the dark when before, I thrived on that group energy. Again, it’s not easy. 

Different Perspective

I started to focus on different things, form, using solitude as practice for long stretches of boring racing and being less afraid of animals that go bump in the dark. (Still working on that one.) Enjoying the fact that I live in a gorgeous place and living for the sunrises. 

One day it clicks again, and it’s become a habit; it may not be PR city, but it’s making you happy. Which is what your hobbies should do, right?

The rut breaker comes in many forms. Switch from roads to trails, hit the track, run with a new group, add structure with a coach, or even take a break and hit reset altogether.

It’s ok to remember the moments that brought you joy, but trying to replicate them in different seasons of life will drive you to the brink of insanity.

10/10 don’t recommend that route.

Remember that comparison is the thief of joy and you should be pursuing new joys.


Keara McGraw Run Tri Bike Magazine Contributor

Communications & Grants Manager, Nonprofit therapist by day, mom, runner, coach, and junk food addict by night. A self-described run-nerd, I have a deep seeded (toxic relationship) love for this sport that comes from riding the ups and downs running can throw at you for the better part of 30 years. Jersey girl to Florida Keys transplant, I'm an island girl in search of good bagels and low humidity. In addition to momming one half squirrel child, two rescue dogs, and a cat named Pumpkin Spice, I coach high school cross country as well as youth and adult runners. Running is a lifelong sport that has given me more than I can ever give back, and I enjoy sharing it with others.