When are we average?

It is the time of year when we evaluate employee performance at work. At the same time, we are well into race season. Whether inside the office walls or outside on the road and trail, we are being ranked and graded and bucketed into a percentile of some kind or another.

You start to ask yourself, “How good am I?”

Two examples. I recently placed 10th out of 558 in my age group at a hometown run. I thought this was awesome! I emailed my parents and in-laws to share in this glorious news. “Look at me… I am fast! Yay!”

But then I got to thinking… this was a hometown race. There were tons of strollers and walkers and people just there for fun. It isn’t like it was a highly competitive field. Maybe placing 10th really didn’t mean anything.

And then a very accomplished athlete I know recently questioned his awesomeness when he placed middle of the pack two races in a row. In fact, he suddenly began to think he was “just average.”

Whereas I placed 10th in a small, hometown run. He placed middle of the pack in a very competitive, very well-known triathlon and an equally competitive and well-known endurance race.

In the immortal words of Carrie Bradshaw, I started to wonder, when are we average?

Are you average if you place in the 50 percentile, but it is your first or longest race? Can you possibly be average when you race 31, 50, 100 miles? Does average even exist at those distances or are you, by definition, extraordinary? Are you average if you place middle of the pack, but you smoked your PR? Perhaps you are average by the standards of that one race, but you are amazing by your own standards.

I suppose the bar of average moves all the time depending on who is doing the defining and around what conditions. I thought my top 10 finish was well above average, but the run was only 4.2 miles. My friend thought his mid-pack finish was only average, but the run was 50 miles. It’s all relative.

– 6 miles. hills. 9 days to San Diego Marathon –


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