Sometimes what leadership means is leading the conversations we have with ourselves.
In the last few year I have taken an interest in ultra-running. An ultra marathon is anything longer than standard marathon (26.2 miles/42.2 km). They tend to take place off road, so are generally run at a slower pace.
Some ultra events are relatively short at 50km (31 miles), but others (like the Western States 100) run for 100 miles in a single go, or for many more miles over a series of days.
One of the things that makes ultra running fascinating is that it pushes the boundaries of what we think the body and the mind are capable of. For example, stop for a moment and think how far you think you (or the fittest person you know) could run in a single day?
Would you believe that Camille Herron holds the women's world record for distance run in 24 hours at 270.116 km (167.842 miles). This is an inconceivable distance for most of us, but it was achieved by a normal human being who set their mind to something and worked towards it.
So, why am I telling you all this?
One of the most famous ultra races in the world is the UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc). This race circles Mont-Blanc and passes through Switzerland, Italy and France. Walkers normally take 11 days to complete this route, but the runners complete the 170km (110 miles) in a single day – even though it is on mountain trails and includes 10km (6.2 miles of ascent and descent).
In August this year, Mathieu Blanchard (France) completed the race in an astonishing 19:54:50.
What an incredible feat of endurance and skill. It is impossible not to be inspired by this don't you think?
But, you know something? Blanchard came second.
The winner of the race this year was the legendary Catalan runner Kílian Jornet Burgada who finished 5 minutes and 20 seconds faster.
So, take a moment, did you downgrade Blanchard's achievement in your mind when you realised he wasn't the best? Even just a fraction?
Well that is the point of today's tip. Comparing yourself to anyone will always lead to disappointment. Because there is always someone out there running a different race at a different speed. Someone with different experiences and challenges to you.
Mathieu Blanchard's achievement is incredible, regardless of anything that anyone else did. He overcame huge obstacles to do it (literally the biggest mountain in Europe) and he was faster than his target of 21:30h. What is more, he only got into the sport of ultra running in 2017 after being inspired by one Kílian Jornet. This is what he said after the race:
He inspired me a lot. But if someone, if someone told me, you know, “Matt, now you are reading the book of Kilian and in five years, you will fight against him on one of the biggest ultra-trail races in the world, at UTMB,” I think I, I couldn’t believe the person who told it to me.
Going from couch to 5k is a huge achievement if you've never run before. Completing 10km or a half marathon, a marathon or an ultra is a huge achievement. None of them are diminished at all because they were not run as far or as fast as Kílian Jornet.
So, whatever you are working on, whatever your goals or aspirations, recognise that progress is success and celebrate that.
And remember, the only person you should compare yourself to is: you!