It was 15 minutes into my run when I saw her.
With her long legs and swinging ponytail and perfect running stride. She was wearing tiny racing shorts, for Christ’s sake. And she looked about 15 years younger than me.
I say ‘saw’ her. In actual fact, she leapt past me like a sodding gazelle and was then off, into the distance.
I couldn’t see her for very long.
There I was with my extra stone of baby weight, wondering how attempting to run 5K had ever become so bloody hard. Wearing black capris, even though it was boiling (there’s no way I’m exposing the dog walkers to my legs just yet). And minus the swinging ponytail, which I recently swapped for a pixie cut that is a touch more Shoreditch than suburbs on a good day (I momentarily forgot I was a mother of two at the salon) and a touch more slept-in-a-ditch than Shoreditch on a bad day. It’s 50/50.
Seeing her was almost enough to stop me in my tracks and make me wonder why the hell I was bothering.
Because then I decided that, actually, she really didn’t look like she had two children to care for round the clock. Which means she hasn’t pushed the best part of half a stone of human being out of her vagina four short months ago. And her body hasn’t been stretched and softened by pregnancy. And her whole being isn’t weighed down by the very physical demands of caring for two little ones.
On top of that, she won’t have been up in the night feeding a baby or trying to find Nemo. Not a bizarre Pixar-related euphemism, I promise. I mean I have literally had to try to find Nemo, the cuddly clown fish, who has got lost down the side of my son’s bed no fewer than three times this week. [Nemo, hear this: if I am called in at 3am one more time to locate you, I am going to stop thinking you are a cute little toy and start thinking that you are, in fact, a bit of a dick.]
So, I might be ‘curvier’ than I was pre-children. I might be more tired. I might be softer and slower, and I might struggle to make it up that final hill.
But deep down, I am stronger.
And I won’t be stopped in my tracks.
Once I picked up the pace again, I realised something. You know what? It really didn’t matter whether ‘that’ girl had children or not. Whether she really was 15 years younger than me, or whether she has simply inherited good genes. In fact, if she is also a tired mother and is still managing to bang out a training run that looked like it could have bagged her a sub 45-minute 10K, well done to her!
Seeing her reminded me that running is an amazingly personal endeavour, with very personal goals and very personal achievements. Unless you are an elite athlete, it really isn’t about racing other people. It is not about comparison. Not for me, anyway. Everyone is running off their own struggles; their own stresses and strains. Everyone is running towards their own personal best.
Some might be a bit speedier or a bit slimmer than others, but at the end of the day, we’re all runners.
If I ever see ‘that’ girl again, I’ll even give her a smile and cheer her on her speedy way.