Try drinking a beverage that has a definite flavor (Coke, wine, beer, tea) from different types of glasses: glass, plastic, metal. You will discover at least two basic things: that the same liquid has different flavors depending on the container you drink it from, and that your perception of something depends on how you experience it.
What does this have to do with running? A lot.
This experience teaches you that we are much more dependent than we imagine on our perceptions, to the point of confusing them with reality. Since everything we experience is filtered through our senses, nothing is experienced “in purity,” that is, exactly for what it is. Perception, after all, is also a kind of judgment we make about what happens to us: that liquid which, depending on the containers from which we drink it, seems different to us is actually still the same liquid, yet we “judge” it differently.
In truth, we do not judge the liquid itself but only how it tastes to us, how we perceive it, precisely.
After all, we do not see reality: we interpret it.
Okay, what about running?
This view of perception might give you the idea that what we think about what we drink and, in a broader sense, perceive, is an illusion. Basically, we cannot evaluate things objectively. Maybe so but what does it matter after all?
We have to accept that our perception of reality is not reality itself but it is still how we see it.
I often think this when I have a good run and I am satisfied. I’m so pleased with it that I imagine I’ve done who knows what times and instead they are very normal, sometimes worse than I imagined.
Does it count? For some yes, for others (me, for example) not at all. What I look for in running is inner satisfaction, I don’t need to measure it in minutes per kilometer or speed to have confirmation that I have done a good thing.
I need to feel it, to sense it.
That is why I offer you a different interpretation of perception: it is not just a filter we put between us and reality but our own unquestionable point of view. If that not-so-good run gave you satisfaction, only that counts.
Because the great deception of the mind (that reality is as we perceive it) is also its great strength: reality is not objective but becomes so in our minds, because we cannot imagine another.
Is it a weakness? I don’t think so. In fact: I think it is a great strength of the human mind. Think of the same condition in which many people do the same thing, like a race. There are those who will take satisfaction from it, those who will give in, those who will be satisfied or not satisfied with the way things went to him or her. Yet the external conditions are the same: the temperature, the weather, the location. At that juncture of time, a number of people found themselves doing the same thing. Yet everyone had a different perception of it.
The lens through which we see things
In the previous lines, I also provided you with a clue that can be useful in dealing with not only a competition but many things in life: what we think of what happens to us is still, however, an interpretation. And it depends only on us.
They say it doesn’t matter what happens to you but how you deal with it, and that couldn’t be truer. That is why for some people even defeats can be victories, because they succeed in pointing a different way forward, toward a better version of themselves.
When we perceive, in short, we interpret and make judgments about what accesses us. Judgment, mind you, is not lamentation: judgment is one’s view of reality. This is why the intelligent loser can put defeat to good use instead of cursing fate. And get better the next time.
There are not many other methods to achieve this, with the understanding that physical training must be methodical.
By making mistakes we learn, they say. I think the most overlooked part of this way of saying it is that it is not about getting it wrong but about learning from it. And how you interpret it.
We can never improve if we think that everything does not depend on us and that nothing depends on how we react to it.
Many successful people have failed. The more successful ones will tell you that their failures were more instructive than their victories. Not because they were not painful but because they were able to handle them by reacting to them.
That is why victories become cups or medals but defeats turn into lessons. If only you have the patience to let them talk.
Or at least: to perceive what they want to tell you.