I don't know what it's like in your town, but where I live, a marathon is an epic event. For us, it's the Baltimore Running Festival which includes not just the marathon but the half marathon, relay, 5K and kids' run. (And if I'm forgetting anything else that was held along with it, I'm really sorry). It's a fantastically well-organized event and a great day.
It also has an active and thriving social media presence. This year, on Facebook, just prior to the event, someone posted something that really stuck with me: "I don't want to hear anyone EVER say, 'I only did the _____ (fill in the blank).' Put on your medal and wear your T-shirt and be proud."
I just love that sentiment because it seems to me that so many of us wind up making excuses for ourselves with our fitness accomplishments, even when we're doing our best. Consider this:
"Well, yeah, I did the marathon, but my time was really slow."
"I lift weights, but it's not like I'm doing tons of reps."
"Yes, I play tennis but I'm only a (fill in the blanks with the NTRP rating)."
What's with that? Why do we feel the need to make excuses for something that we think might not be considered a knock-'em-dead performance? Do we really feel like someone is judging us because we completed the metric century bicycle ride and not the imperial century? Do we actually need to qualify for the Boston Marathon in order to be worthy?
I'd like to say this: fitness is all about setting your own goals and working toward them. But you know what? That would make me a hypocrite. I'm constantly apologizing for what I consider my subpar performance on the racquetball court and explaining my ACL surgery. Good gosh almighty, why? Half the people my age are completely sedentary, but I'm still feeling sheepish about not bringing home medals.
Obviously, we live in a culture of overblown expectations, and nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to sports. We measure ourselves against the superstars who achieve extremes and then we apologize because we fall short. Someone might look at the way, for example, Missy Franklin swims, and based on that, find their own performance wanting. Even though they're out there swimming regularly and keeping fit and being a lot healthier than most, they still feel the need to make excuses for their results. Or maybe they complete an obstacle race, but feel compelled to apologize because 'it's not one of the really tough ones.'
Someone please explain this to me.
What is needed is a concerted effort to be proud of yourself and what you've accomplished. Toot your own horn, dang it. You're not sitting on the couch and decrying your weight - you're out there doing something positive.
What's funny is the opposite happens when many parents talk about their kids. When I was a newspaper reporter, I got a lot of pitches to write stories about children whose parents swore they were prodigies at music/sports/math/anything else. (Usually, they weren't really exceptional, although they always did turn out to be very nice kids and a lot of fun to interview). But it seems to me that adults can't find the middle ground (in fact, they usually go right down that slippery slope) when it comes to describing their own performance.
So here's the deal: I'm going to try to take the advice of the guy who posted on the Baltimore Running Festival's Facebook page. And I encourage everyone to value what they've done and not apologize for what they haven't. Put on your T-shirt or your medal or whatever it is you have earned - and just be proud.