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Brag and Boast, or Simply Stating Fact?

April 13, 2010

SBS as Glee's shout-it-out Sue Sylvester last Halloween

As many of you know, the seed of our book Run Like a Mother was training for the 2007 Nike Women’s Marathon and writing about it for Runner’s World magazine. I vividly remember confessing to our wonderful editor Tish (a mom and veteran of dozens of marathons), “Readers won’t like me compared to Dimity because I admit to being competitive.” Tish allayed my fears by telling me some readers would actually relate more to me because they, too, are driven at races.

Fast-forward to writing the book, and my “no one will like me” concerns surfaced again. This time it was Dimity calming me down, reminding me we had vowed to be honest and forthcoming in our writing. And, to paraphase Dim’s mantra of, “It is what it is,” I told myself, “I am what I am.” Like it or lump it, I’m competitive. With myself and others.

Thus I was delighted when I read a recent review of RLAM, which read, “Shea somehow remains likable despite her brazen admission that she brags about being speedy.” Alone in my office, reading that, I had a Sally Fields’ “You like me, you really LIKE me!” moment. I was so delighted with the reviewer’s comment, I posted it on my Facebook wall, which elicited some interesting-to-me comments that I want to share.

Laura, who just started RunMommaRun in Eugene, Oregon, wrote, “LOVE IT! I recently re-read some stuff you wrote about getting over being comfortable and pushing your body so your mind learns it can do it. I really struggle with thinking I’ll die, fall over, or have to quit if I push to hard. Dammit, I want to get faster too so I can brag about it! Loved it in the book when you said something like, “thank God for Facebook” so you can post about your speed. That’s awesome.”

Christine, a marathon-mom who lives outside of Chicago was kind enough to write, “I love the parts where Sarah is totally honest about how hard it is to go hard. And how hard it feels, but then how good it feels. So refreshing. That’s what it is. And I so wish more women knew this because we too can do it! We can give birth but we can’t run 8-minute miles? Come on! Yes, we can!”

Finally, my beloved friend and dedicated 5K runner, Joanne, commented, “Women feel good when they accomplish something–I don’t see it as a ‘brag.’ It is a way to convey how proud we are of what we have done.”

Where do you land on the boast v. post spectrum?

37 Comments leave one →
  1. Allyson permalink
    April 13, 2010 6:09 am

    Hi All,
    I agree with Joanne, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. Over the last 4 years I’ve gotten stronger and faster -and I did it all by myself! I feel more confident and strong…and I enjoy knowing that I’m probably the only Mom at the PTO meeting that clicked off a 6 mile tempo run with 3 miles at a 7:44 pace at 6am in the morning. 🙂 The way I see it, we’ve earned the right to a brag about it.
    Have a great day!

  2. April 13, 2010 6:14 am

    My “bragging” or race reports are all about showing people who are just starting that anyone can run. I’m not the fastest by any means but I am just proud of the fact that I went out there and did it.

    • April 13, 2010 11:43 am

      Michel–I like your take on it. That talking about one’s running accomplishments are a way of providing inspiration to novices.

  3. April 13, 2010 7:16 am

    Sarah, don’t worry. I’m in the midst of reading the book and I’m just past the chapter about pushing yourself to empty. That helped me so much on my run yesterday & I look forward to that helping me as my runs get longer (and scarier).

    • April 13, 2010 11:45 am

      S Club Mama–
      I’m so glad the Mental Toughness chapter helped you. It’s the chapter I’m most proud of (and the one that required the most rewrites!). I feel I have come so far in the year since I did the Eugene Marathon. Mental toughness is like cardiovascular fitness: You can continue to hone it and push it. So keep at the hard work, and the runs will seem progressively less “scary.”

  4. Julie Fredericks permalink
    April 13, 2010 7:17 am

    I am another facebook bragger I suppose, though I never really thought of it as bragging. I am often so amazed at what I have done, I have to share. To me, it is more like if I can do it, anyone can. Trying to motivate others.

  5. April 13, 2010 7:52 am

    Your post questions always spark so many words in me that I have to go write a whole post of my own because I can’t contain my thoughts to a simple comment!!

    I thought I was just posting my run results in my blog…but I’m actually bragging–to myself–putting into words exactly what my body has just done to reinforce to my mind that I CAN DO IT. I have to be reminded that running 5 miles at a 12:24 pace is a HUGE accomplishment (over walking 30 minutes just 4 months ago), because that five miles feels so inconsequential to me right now. I have to be reminded where I came from to see how far I’ve come!

    • April 13, 2010 11:47 am

      Another great way of looking at it (love all this self-reflection that is helping me–thank you!). Sometimes a run can all seem part of day’s duty, not some great accomplishment. So it’s great to take a step back and remind oneself of how far each of us has come. Congrats on making the conversation from walker to runner!!

  6. April 13, 2010 7:59 am

    Honestly, thank goodness for your bragging. I find it totally inspiring. I love that you’ve gotten faster, that you are PRing after years of running, after kids and after turning 30. It gives me hope I still may qualify in a few years! Keep up the good work, and keep telling us all about it!

    • April 13, 2010 11:50 am

      Thanks, Michelle. I’ll be honest: I wrote this bragging blog post before I left on book tour. On my drives through Seattle area and now up into Canada, I’ve had time to reflect on it, and I worried I was opening myself up to potshots and criticism. I am SO appreciative and encouraged by the positive feedback I’m reading here. Makes me feel less lonely in Canadian hotel room!!

      And 30-year mark is MANY years behind me. Take it from this 40-something momma: If you work on it, you can continue getting faster and PR. (Of course it helped that I wasn’t very fast at age 30! ha, ha)

  7. Stephanie permalink
    April 13, 2010 8:36 am

    If only more women were willing to talk positively about themselves and their accomplishments, imagine how different our world would be. For those of us with young daughters (I have one and then 2 boys), it is important to teach our girls to be proud of themselves, their accomplishments and their strengths . . . and to talk about them. The boys do it from early on and don’t think twice about it, but the girls definitely do.

  8. April 13, 2010 8:39 am

    PS – I still remember the article about the 2007 Women’s Marathon. Partially because I loved the article, and partially because the 2007 Women’s Marathon was my first marathon. I loved that you were competitive AND you admitted it.

  9. April 13, 2010 9:29 am

    I think bragging is totally appropriate, inspiring, and motivating. Bring it on, babe!

  10. KarenM permalink
    April 13, 2010 9:44 am

    You know, if you were a man, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation of whether it’s “bad” that you “brag”! You go, Sarah!

  11. April 13, 2010 10:12 am

    Anyone who picks up your book and reads it has some remote interest in being a mom and being a runner. Even women who don’t run for time/speed can relate to having a competitive streak in SOMETHING. We all appreciate your honesty and inspiration.

  12. April 13, 2010 10:25 am

    I am guilty of this too, lol! But I agree with the other comments, I am amazed that I can do this! I love to run fast and I am training to run even faster. I also worry about people not liking me because of this, especially my running buddies. They sometimes ask me why I run with them. I tell them it is because I love them and I love their company. They are the reason I started running in the first place. So, run fast, girl, be proud of it and don’t be afraid to tell the world! : )

  13. April 13, 2010 11:42 am

    I have a hard time saying those things about myself! But I love when SBS does it in the book it totally inspires me to think that if she too could push herself then why can’t I? AND after I read the part about her speed training this weekend I went out to see how fast I could complete Just one mile, I knew there was no way it would be under 9 mins… my shock it was 8:34 I rewarded myself with just doing that one mile..!!! be proud….it is inspiring!

    • April 13, 2010 11:52 am

      Way to go busting out a fast mile, Erica!! I’m pleased the book inspired you to see what you had in you.

      And to all you ladies who have posted comments in support of bragging/pride: I have happy tears running down my face. Thank you, thank you.

  14. April 13, 2010 12:44 pm

    Loved reading all your comments, ladies. I completely agree with Stephanie; women don’t talk about their accomplishments enough, but it comes naturally for most men. My kiddos are little (4 and 6) and they both brag about themselves pretty equally at this age. I wonder when it becomes “less attractive” for girls to toot their own horn. I have always been drawn to women who don’t apologize, hold back or preface everything with something negative about themselves. We more of those!!!

    Similar to Erica’s experience, I ran my fastest mile repeats and the following week my fastest 400M after reading SBS’s mental toughness chapter. Maybe we should call it the “SBS Effect” or something. Seems to be catching!

    @SBS – Thanks for the shout out with the RMR link. Appreciate the support!

    • April 13, 2010 12:46 pm

      Should read: “We NEED more of those!!!” But you probably figured that out.

    • April 13, 2010 3:04 pm

      That is SO awesome (and flattering) that you ran your fastest mile repeats and 400s after reading Mental Toughness chapter. Wow. I’m thrilled.

      As long as we’re talking about tooting own horns: I ran 4 super-duper mile repeats along Vancouver’s Stanley Park famous seawall this morning. Supposed to do them btwn 7:25-7:35. Actual: 7:36, 7:26, 7:21, 7:20. Hot-diggety!!

  15. Joleen permalink
    April 13, 2010 12:56 pm

    I love the fact that you are a driven women and are willing to put yourself out there at the risk of “coming up empty”. I am an athlete, it is just part of who I am. That means the competitive drive is alive and well and I don’t feel like it should be lost just because I am a mother. I am also constantly humbled and amazed by other women; both those who are in front of and behind me.
    I am disappointed in myself if I take the easy road and don’t give it everything I have. During my last ultra I had a surprising finishing kick and the thought that went through my head when passing some competitors was “ABC U LATER”….this is the title of a beloved children’s book of my daughters…that made me chuckle….
    Keep posting its inspiring!

  16. April 13, 2010 2:03 pm

    I love the tone with which you wrote the book. Both yours and Dimity’s.

    I’ve been torn about posting my running successes, and failures for all to see, and just how to do it. I started out just letting my Nike+iPod post to Twitter, and writing occasionally on my blog. I was very hesitant about broadcasting to Facebook because some of my high school cross country teammates are semi-elite marathoners now, while I quit running for 14 years, 40 lbs and one child. I changed my mind for one Facebook friend and one Facebook friend only, my sister. Now my Nike+iPod updates Facebook after every run and she can cheer me on from afar. And yesterday I received a comment from my husband who I didn’t even think noticed. He likes seeing the little note with my pace the night before, and actually keeps an eye on my slowly improving slow pace.

    There are days I regret it because of the comments from those who don’t understand why I run. I shouldn’t let them get to me, but I do. But I don’t run for them. I run for me. And it’s important to me. I can’t not talk about it.

  17. April 13, 2010 2:33 pm

    I love reading this post and remembering feeling the same way when I read the book!
    So down to earth and human! Still working on the second half but loving every word!

  18. April 13, 2010 2:43 pm

    I am a bragger! I think people should brag more. Be proud of everything you accomplish no matter how tiny it might be! I, too, am super competitive. I will announce that fact to anyone and everyone. I run to be faster than my friends (which keeps me motivated to work hard).

  19. April 13, 2010 4:32 pm

    You have a book to brag with, I have my blog 🙂 I am working so hard at getting faster and more efficient that it feels like a full time job sometimes. But it feels so good to put it down in blog land that I nailed a particular run or hit all my splits. Go ahead and brag – I think it’s part of the therapy running give us 🙂

  20. April 13, 2010 4:47 pm

    well first of all I want to tell people about my running because I am so proud of myself for doing it and feeling good at something I do. Then on the other hand I feel like I am bragging a bit and I don’t tell people because it tends to push people away. They tell me they could never do that so instead of talking to me they push away from me so I tend not to talk about it any more. I just don’t understand why we can’t celebrate peoples greatness without comparing ourselves to them and feeling down. We all are good at something and we should celebrate what we are good at. For now I will just tell my husband and my new running partner.

  21. April 13, 2010 6:14 pm

    I definitely wouldn’t call what I do “bragging” at this point in the game, b/c running a 10:43 is nothing to be impressed with. I put it up to get some cheering from people, that helps motivate me to hopefully one day get back to my PR of 8:27. Then, it will be bragging and I don’t care who it bothers–because at this point, that will be a serious accomplishment!

  22. April 13, 2010 8:52 pm

    Just finished a talk with my 13 year old daughter. She’s a straight A student (we never even check her homework, she just comes home and does it) and a great athlete. She just started track and she’s fretting about her times already. It occurs to me this is probably how Sarah was at 13? My girls is how she is and she’ll be great at whatever she does. Doesn’t make it easier for her, but it’s easy to be proud of her. I bet Sarah’s mom feels the same way!

  23. OtherJulie permalink
    April 13, 2010 9:25 pm

    So, I ran 10 miles on Friday and was pretty pleased that it didn’t kill me. I didn’t stop at all (except to call husband when I got lost). It felt fine, I could have gone further…wasn’t sore the next day.

    Then, I ran with some friends on Monday and the topic of speed came up. I had kinda resolved myself that I was a 10 – 11 min mile runner…and just would plod along, getting it done.

    Now this post…I was always competitive in high school sports (team sports like soccer and basketball. I run now to stay in shape, do something for me, and for energy. I am not competitive about running…but now I kinda want to be. My juices are flowing again.

    I am running a half marathon in a month and looking to run more in the summer and fall. My question is: when looking to work on speed and improve times, should you focus on 5ks first and then build up to larger distances? Or should I just go for it?

  24. April 14, 2010 1:46 am

    Help me find 70,000 kind hearted people worldwide willing to buy virtual lemonade advertisement plot to help fund for college

    Pixels for Lemonade

  25. April 14, 2010 9:29 am

    Those who get annoyed by bragging or don’t like it are totally jealous! =) At least that is how I justify it to myself! When I “brag” to my friends they are usually very supportive and proud of me and I have rarely come across someone who snuffs!

    I am getting more and more competitive lately, with myself. For now I am not competitive against others, I don’t set my sights on a shirt in front of me in races to pass I just try to do better than I did last time, or better than I think I think I can. I just want to be the best me I can be, and I keep getting better and better! And in the end, I run for me.

  26. Cathy permalink
    April 15, 2010 8:57 am

    I’m not in it to be competitive with anyone else but myself, however…it is nice to reach a personal goal and have others congratulate you. I’m almost never accountable for my goals unless I let others know about it, it keeps me honest with myself.
    I just posted my next race on FB, so now its out there for everyone to know that I’m working towards a goal.
    P.S. The Mental Toughness chapter also got me re-thinking my ‘tough’ runs.

  27. vegaspixie permalink
    April 15, 2010 8:38 pm

    Heck yes, I post my daily runs and races on daily mile and facebook! Now I’m not a fast runner by any means. Mostly I’m just happy to finish! But this past January when my husband and I completed the Goofy Challenge, I brought all three medals in to work and hung them up on my cube wall–just for the day–to celebrate! Iwas so proud! 2nd ever marathon, and running that far in two days? But I guess in my mind I’m trying to be an inspiration; there’s absolutely nothing special about me, athletically. So if I can do it, my co-workers–many of whom struggle with weight and health issues–they can do it too!

  28. April 17, 2010 11:17 am

    I’m about halfway through the book and am loving it – especially the chapter on mental toughness!

    I, too, am a “bragger,” but I’m so proud of myself for getting faster and stronger and working out on a regular basis that I can’t contain myself! My friends and family don’t seem to mind at all, and I find their positive comments motivating. I’ve had several (generally much younger and child-free) fellow dental students comment that they’re inspired by my level of commitment to my workouts, and that helps keep me motivated, too. If my “bragging” helps me and those around me tie up their laces and head out the door, there’s nothing wrong with that 🙂

  29. April 17, 2010 8:29 pm

    As women we feel guilty for boasting or even stating FACTS about our success. My stand is that I have to be my own Champion. I will not rub a win in someones face, but bet your running shoes I WILL tell the world when I PR or run a sweet tempo run. This PRIDE has served me well in my life and I dont plan to change.

    And YES my friend I do relate to you…

    FYI my buddy Shannon just bought RLAM off my review on the Blog 🙂

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