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Challenging Yourself to Do Better

I run slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter! This shirt always made me laugh. I was a real slow poke when I started running. My walking miles are faster now than my running miles were in the beginning. Things have changed! 

Recently I began thinking about identifying with a turtle.

I have written about lots of topics over the years. This one bothers me a little. It's about POTENTIAL. Oh God forgive me. It's not because I am an average runner, but because, for some, being a turtle is an excuse. Ouch!

What if calling yourself a turtle kept you from your full potential?

What if our attitude about ourselves was a self-imposed limitation? It can be. When I was a teenager, I practiced long after dark shooting pucks, ice skating and stick handling. I came home everyday and shot pucks at the net during the off season. I went to hockey school with the pros - Bobby  Orr to name one. I never made the pros. Hell, I was lucky to make the varsity hockey team.

My brother was scouted for an NHL team. He left the pond at sunset and went to all the parties.

I certainly understand that most of us won't become world-class athletes. Those are the limitations of genetics and age. For the same reason we struggle with weight and fitness, our bodies just can't do some things very well.

Ask yourself: What if I could do better?

Two years ago I ran a race with a friend. This runner was a back-of-the-packer. Doing a mix of running and walking we made it to finish line of a half marathon. My friend was also a self-proclaimed turtle.

Let me be frank about this. In the first mile the complaining started about the hills, the weather and how hard it was to breathe. As the race went on, I heard a lot of turtle talk; not just from my friend, but other runners in the back of the pack.

It was a cesspool of negativity back there.

Every runner knows that a training run should allow you to carry on a light conversation while running. In a race, you should be hard pressed to spit out a single word. :)

Negative self-talk will produce negative results.

It can be about your speed, your looks, your weight loss, your job, your relationships or anything else. If all your sentences contain the words "will never," and "I can't," you are in trouble.

A changed attitude is a changed life!

My friend has since worked on his form, his breathing and a few other things. His half marathon times have gotten faster and faster. Thirty minutes faster!

If you have read this far, I want you know that I am not down on slow runners.  Some of us just are. Some of us run just for the fun of it and don't care about times, pace or speed. I want you to be proud of your accomplishments. I want you to be encouraged to do better. That is all.

Let me tell you what running has done for me.

When I started I ran because walking took so dang long. I was run/walking 14 or 15 minute miles. I walked a 20 minute mile. I was almost 70 pounds overweight. I worked hard and ran my first 5K after picking away at C25K for an entire year.

31:41 was the best I could do with my body, which was recovering from congestive heart failure. I was still obese at the time. I was happy to finish, I learned a lot about racing that day.

I still struggle with my body, cancer and the emotional and physical changes have taken their toll. 

When I ran my first marathon, I did more than I thought I would do. I am still amazed when I toe the line expecting to finish 26.2 miles. I still can't wrap my head around what my body is able to do.

This past week, after a very tough season of illness, I toed the line of my 33rd 5K. I decided to just run - run as hard as I could! I looked at my Garmin only 3 times. I ran too fast to talk, too fast to take my eyes of the road ahead.

I ran like the hare.

I set a personal record of 22:14. That is almost 10 minutes faster then when I started! It took me 5 years, a little bit of a downhill and a strong tailwind, but I did it.

I have one question: When you look at yourself in the mirror, do you see an elephant, a turtle, or have you learned to see your potential?

Go run and have fun. And push yourself a little.

Thanks for the votes and comments. (You can do both!)

Friend me at your own risk.

118 votes + -

36 comments:

simpletonuk wrote 31 months ago:
We have a party at the back of the bus, the people I run with have all different abilities and we have learnt that encouraging each other has better effect on our mind set before a workout or a race.

We have a party at the back and cheer those who come in front and behind us
sherry0614 wrote 31 months ago:
I'm going to the ortho on July 18th for my first consultation about knee replacement (drunk driver, 1988). My goal right now is not about how fast I can run, but anxiously waiting for that first day that I am ABLE to run after nearly 30 years!!! I'm so excited I could spit. After the replacement and rehab, I can't WAIT to write on your wall that I am attempting my first 5K. I am positive I will be a turtle, but a winning turtle :-) Yes I've done many 5Ks - walking. But to actually be able to run??? Just wait David - I'll be challenging you on run times before you know it!!!! :-D
dsjohndrow wrote 31 months ago:
I can't wait, Sherry!
luluinca wrote 31 months ago:
I started running in Jan because I couldn't swim anymore due to a shoulder injury. I've never been a runner and wasn't sure if I'd like it or not.

Surprise..........I do. I don't consider myself a turtle, just slow.........LOL.

I am working on pace and distance though. Just like every other sport I've ever done I look for improvement.

I'll probably never run in a race but I do enjoy the satisfaction of trying something new and sticking with it. I'm swimming again now but also running.
dsjohndrow wrote 31 months ago:
Good job, Lulu! Maybe triathlons. Do you have a bike? ;)
johnwhitent wrote 31 months ago:
Good stuff! When I look in the mirror, I see a hare (but with arthritic knees). That's not an excuse, just something to work around. Everybody is dealing with something, so I just shut up and run/ride/lift. I've had to modify some goals to reflect reality, but I will succeed!
MaryQueenofWalking wrote 31 months ago:
What great advice! I've been sooo negative about myself lately and how I "can't" make progress on personal goals. Thanks for the spotlight on the real problem.
thenananator wrote 31 months ago:
I have began to think there is a runner in this 52 year old (cancer survivor warrior also), currently overweight, 25 year old at heart old lady! I have been walking 10 miles 4 times a week and I find myself becoming impatient with walking and I will break into a run ......at least for a couple of blocks before that stupid negative self talks reminds me that "you are too fat to be running" blah blah. IT FEELS GOOD to feel my body and the air around me....thank you for your blog...I really enjoy it. I have my 10 mile walks down to 15 min miles ...I am going to move faster tomorrow BECAUSE I CAN. Carmen
laurentroppmann wrote 31 months ago:
I started running again a couple years ago, on my arthritic knees after a trainer helped me build up strength to support the knees and have been pleasantly surprised by how well they are holding up. I'm slow, but I remind myself that I'm significantly faster than those not running! And I enjoy being and strongly identify as a runner.
PlantBasedRnr wrote 31 months ago:
I love that you are able to express and put into words how a lot of us think and feel, or maybe I am just speaking for myself - another profound blog post... and with that being said and all of your eloquent words I would like to suggest you write a book, I think you'd be a natural! ( Ha ha, I hope you see the humor in this ).
dsjohndrow wrote 31 months ago:
HA ha - I have a second one in mind. ;)
caffeinified wrote 31 months ago:
Well I guess I needed to read this today. I made it my goal for the year to teach myself to run and have been hitting roadblocks the whole way (shin splints and runner's knee). I've finally realized I needed to slow it down and not try to be a professional all in one go. But, I've been pretty sad about the slowing down.

This blog just encouraged me to think positive again and keep going. It doesn't matter how fast you go as long as you go and push yourself to keep going. And yeah, still faster than the people on the couch. lol

Thanks for this.
CarmenChaban wrote 31 months ago:
I am a slow runner, always have been. I'm not negative about it but in the past I have not done long runs because of it. I once did 5k in 30 mins, that was the fastest I have ever run. I use to let the fact that I was slow bring me down a bit, then I used to tell myself...at least I'm trying. It can be very daunting when everyone is faster than you are. I came in second last on the only 5k race I ever ran...lol

I have started running again after 2 years, doing a 5k training program over 12 weeks. Once I finish it I am going to start working on getting a bit faster over time. I think sometimes it's more mental than physical and it's all in the way you look at the big picture. What I held on to then and what I will do again, is try to remember that I'm doing my best. I'm achieving my personal goals. I'm putting myself out there and giving it all I have. There will always be someone faster and better than you, and likely there will always be someone slower...even if you haven't met them yet.

joe_wojniak wrote 31 months ago:
I ran my 5 mi. loop tonight. I slowed down, but didn't stop to walk until I'd finished the first mile. I have to be honest, the first mile was a little painful. After that, I could run for awhile and then walk for awhile, and then go back to running. It felt like my body needed to adjust to the activity and then it started to get the hang of it.
MonicaA2013 wrote 31 months ago:
LOVE IT !!! I ran my fist mile as an adult almost 2 yrs ago, because i needed some form of exercise. NOW I run because i like it. No races as to date but the c25k is done and now i am working on the 10k. I have been the turtle and the hare and the elephant at different times. The main thing like you said is to keep going and don't give up. Be that turtle but don't keep that hare from appearing.
tayter_tot7 wrote 31 months ago:
Well I'm just getting into running/jogging and this post definitely helped me alot. Thanks.
izzybelle2013 wrote 31 months ago:
I was a slow runner, now I am a trying to speed up walker. But I am looking forward to my 10k on July 4. I will be so happy to finish, regardless of the time. And I will cheer people on at the back of the pack. It is getting out there and doing it that counts. I love your blogs!
Wysewoman53 wrote 31 months ago:
Turtles also win races. I can't run due to bone issues around my replaced hip...the bones around the hip are not strong enough. However, there have been many, many days where I wished I could just to 'get it over with'. The word 'can't' was not one used in our household when our children were growing up and it chafes me to have to use it now but it is what it is, I suppose. Just being able to walk is a blessing for me now. I walked my first 5K this Spring and was proud to do it after so many years of not even being able to walk at all. My bib said: Did It! So, all you runners out there, don't be too harsh on those you see walking...the Turtles. They, too, could be in a race to just reach the finish line. When I look in the mirror, I see a success story.
ritas2156 wrote 31 months ago:
Thanks to all of you! I really needed to read all these positive and affirming thoughts today.
Here's my story so far, which will probably make y'all feel even better about yourselves!!
I started 2016 at 192 pounds over my goal weight. That's a BMI in excess of 54. I didn't walk or run because I thought I couldn't. Using MFP, I lost 15 pounds, and in early April started walking. My first trip was about a quarter mile, and I was not sure I'd survive! Now, just over 2 months later, I am walking 1.4 miles at a time, and have lost 32 pounds! My pace is still only 30 minutes per mile (is that even fast enough for a turtle, or am I in the snail category?) but I am improving!!!
That's all that really matters to me at this point: progress. YAY ME!!!!
swat1948 wrote 31 months ago:
I have previously mentioned that I am not allowed to run. Before I started my weight loss/fitness journey my orthopedic surgeon did his best to convince me that the more I used my artificial knees, the sooner they would need to be redone. I'm glad I got past that. I am fitter than the majority of my friends, and I can "run" circles around my children. I won't settle for being slow. My age is not an excuse either, (I'm no spring chicken). I will not give up. Have just returned from a month's vacation after losing my husband. I did not stress over what I ate but got in plenty of physical activity. I will not go backwards and I will continue to improve! You are a true inspiration friend!
kar328 wrote 31 months ago:
Great post. When I started this, my runs were probably 16-17 min/miles. I now walk 15 min/miles without making a big effort, just a brisk walk kind of thing. I made it through C25K (doing the football touchdown dance on the dreaded W5D3 20 min run) but never had lots of speed. First 5K was 42 mins. Little by little the times have gotten better, last September I did my subdivision's one in 30:07 when I was hitting 31/32 mins. That really made me want a sub 30 min 5K, which until then, I didn't think I'd ever do. I did several 5Ks this year and just kept missing it, 30:29, 30:15, 30:03 and finally earlier this month not only broke it, but did it in 28:55. I was just aiming for 29:59. I'm signed up for my subdivision's one again this September and can't wait to see what I can do this time. It's a great feeling to see the improvement. I'm not going to break any records, except my own. :-)
dsjohndrow wrote 31 months ago:
Y'all just keep on moving and pushing yourselves!
_sacar wrote 31 months ago:
OMG - can I just say that 31:41 is faster than I have EVER run a 5k? I do fall into the camp of running just to run, not for speed or time. I've been running for a while (a couple years), and mine is still around ~34:00. But now I do feel like I need to push past my comfort zone! I had a well-worded comment ready until I saw that 5k time and now I'm all flabbergasted. Hahaha.
rusgolden wrote 31 months ago:
You had me at Bobby Orr... :) he was my sports hero growing up.

Seriously, great post. I hadn't done any running since HS and last week graduated from the C25K and moving on to the 10K training program. My times aren't great, but I feel so successful already just being able to run. I have found that so much of running is mental during the course of the past few weeks, but I have surprised myself in sticking with the program and powering through those times of mental weakness. I've found much encouragement on MFP groups and forums.

Thanks again for your post!
radiosilents wrote 31 months ago:
This post really resonated with me. I've been running for about a year and a half now and my 5K PR is still just under 45 minutes, which I was thrilled with. I do tend to identify as a turtle, but what you're saying here is really giving me something to think about. Thank you!
JeromeBarry1 wrote 31 months ago:
I did my 3rd 5k last week. The time was no better than the 2nd, though I'd lost 20 lb between. I thought I had improved my training. The next will be when I'm in onederland.
jonnyman41 wrote 31 months ago:
The Hare and the tortoise tale comes to my mind. Running slow for many is the only way they can do thiso including me but it is not a negative thing. Everyone needs to set their own goals according to want they want and need and then just go do it and not worry what others think. Can I just add that at the back of the pack your will find beginners,people with injuries, older people and higher weigh people. Not everyone at the back is someone that complains or holds themselves back!

jonnyman41 wrote 31 months ago:
The Hare and the tortoise tale comes to my mind. Running slow for many is the only way they can do thiso including me but it is not a negative thing. Everyone needs to set their own goals according to want they want and need and then just go do it and not worry what others think. Can I just add that at the back of the pack your will find beginners,people with injuries, older people and higher weigh people. Not everyone at the back is someone that complains or holds themselves back!

TAMayorga wrote 31 months ago:
Thanks for this! I have not considered myself a turtle, but do not think I am speedy, either. I have been off all formal exercise for 2 weeks and have been worried about starting my running program back up today. This will give me the positive mind-set I need.
planetjk wrote 31 months ago:
Go DJ John Snow! I heard you spin your new single, Ygritte and the Wildlings, at the Castle Black Club a few weeks ago, it was great!
darcy2102 wrote 31 months ago:
I am a non runner....I have tried and ended up telling myself that I didn't need to do this, that not everyone is a runner. But I realize that that was worse than turtle talk. I used to say that same thing....I walked faster than I ran (so why bother punishing myself by trying to run). I am now building the strength and stamina to walk far and fast, to hike trails along the escarpment and to move my ass over rock and logs. I may never be a fan running, and I can live with that, but I really want to be able to to try and learn to love it....but I need the turtle in my head to take a hike (no pun intended).

I saw you and your progression...how long it took you to complete C25K ( a good year I think)....I can do that....and I am willing to TRY!!!
BranwynTaffy wrote 31 months ago:
Very nicely written. You've made amazing strides. This post will be an inspiration to many. Best of everything!
143tobe wrote 31 months ago:
I LOVE this. I always enjoyed running, but I was never dedicated or consistent at it, and would just do it to have fun, throwing in the odd race here and there. I wasn't fast, I simply enjoyed the feeling of running and the meditation time that it gave me. Fast forward 10 years to this past November. I was 205lbs. Some friends signed up for a half marathon that I didn't want to miss. When I started my training, just walking 3 miles was hard. I worked my way up to run/walking, and was SO proud of myself when I was able to finish with a time of 3:01, if you don't include the long lined bathroom break, 3:13 if you count it. By race day I had gone from 205 to 182, down 23lbs. Progress. Our team name was the Cali Turtles. I suppose it was to let everyone know at the start that, hey, don't expect much from us, we're kind of beginners. It will be the last time I will ever call or consider myself a turtle. Actually, in the beginning I was a turtle, and a proud one. For me, slow and steady was the key to winning that race. But once run, I wanted more. As soon as I got home I signed up for another half marathon three months down the road. I began my training as soon as I got home. Now it is the end of June. I just completed my second half marathon this past weekend with a time of 2:30:58. (no bathroom breaks needed.) Weight on race day, 162. Loss of another 20lbs. In just three months I improved my half marathon time by half an hour. I am seriously stoked by that. Am I satisfied with that? Never. My running has become Me vs. Me. I just want to push myself faster and faster, because I know I can. I get stronger and leaner every day, and I am loving that feeling of becoming a machine. I will be doing another half marathon in another 3 months. I am really looking forward to seeing how much faster I am able to push myself this time. And on that run, I do expect that I will finally be my 143.
JeffreyJRiggs wrote 31 months ago:
Wow I have been lazy lately and reading this really has re-enforced my decision to step up and stop being so lazy...

Thanks for the read!
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jeanlake wrote 31 months ago:
Thank you, David. Agree with your quote about a changed attitude is a changed future / life. I work in higher education and that quote is on my desk for students to read. My attempt at gaining a healthier life is effort and keeping perspective in check. I used to work out at the college gym after a full work day but generally left the gym tired and discouraged. My mind kept thinking about how athletic and healthy I used to be and how I should have done a better job staying fit. Easy to think those thoughts when surrounded by athletic, young, fit specimens. Then, I moved my gym membership to a community center closer to my home. Miracle! I work out more often, made some chatty friends, found my cohort group and now I'm the fit one. So happy with my gym that I'm taking tabata and yoga classes along with workouts. I'm also comfortable going to the weight room. This change helped my attitude tremendously. I could easily say, I was a friend to myself as I put myself in a position where my attitude / perspective could improve. This may not work for everyone -- but it's working for me! Kind Regards -- Jean

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