Thinking Out Loud – Treadmill Racing



To the lady using the treadmill next to me the other day:


Sometimes when I run on the treadmill, I think of it as racing the person next to me.


Do you know this Geico commercial?

But the other day when you were next to me, I didn’t feel that way.

In fact, I didn’t even want to glance over to your display screen because it reminded me of keeping my eyes on my own paper in school.

It seemed like cheating. Your work is your work and mine is my own. It shouldn’t matter what the other is doing nor should it influence us in either direction.

I felt a little bit bad when I saw you glance over at my screen.

I don’t know for sure what you were thinking but please allow me to vent anyway:

Running next to me on the treadmill and seeing my pace as double your own (I know, I glanced and didn’t mean to) doesn’t tell a full story.

Believe me when I say, running was not always my thing.

It may appear as though I am always doing it so effortlessly but it’s not easy.

Even the easy runs aren’t easy.

Every step requires effort. Every time I push the arrow up to increase my speed takes determination and it has taken me years to get to where I am, to develop this stamina where I can run loop upon loop around our neighborhood and get all speedy on this treadmill without falling off flat on my face.

I grew up with doctor’s notes to get me out of gym class along with plenty of back-up notes from my mother as to why I couldn’t run and to please allow Meredith to rest if she needs to.

I fainted and threw up on my gym teacher (true story, ninth grade, she never made me run again) when I forgot those excuse notes at home and was subsequently forced to run the required class mile.

When I decided to finally move myself one day and figure out how to run, I eased into it by setting the treadmill to 4.5 and that was my best speed for the longest time.

When I got a little better at it, I would call my dad all excited because I was able to bump up the speed button without fainting.

You won’t believe it! I ran without dying at 5.0, 5.5 and even 6.0 for a few seconds!

Nothing happens overnight. Speed, endurance, distance — it takes time.

They shouldn’t even be worked on at the same time because doing too much too soon can lead to injury and I am super afraid of that.

This exercise stuff? This running thing? It’s all about dedication, not giving up and learning to respect and understand what your body can do.

And really, none of us should get competitive on the treadmill because we just never know the agenda of the person next to us.

We are all running for different reasons according to training plans (or lack of in my case), strategies, abilities and moods.

It may be a speed day, a recovery day, a long run day, an easy day, hill day, tempo day or the first day back to running after an illness or injury.

It may be your first day running ever.

So thank you for making me realize that one cannot race the person next to them on the treadmill unannounced.

It’s an unfair silly sort of competition.

Except when there’s a man running on the treadmill next to me.


That’s when I can’t help myself.

No way he is going to be beat me.

Be sure to check out what everyone else is thinking about today!


If you are on the treadmill, do you ever glance at the person’s speed next to you?

How old were you when you started running?

Did you like gym in school?





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  1. says

    This is awesome! I definitely like to race the person next to me, but it depends on a lot of things. a) If they consistently are peeking over at my ‘mill (It’s on.) b) if it is a man. c) If I am already doing sprint intervals then I can’t help myself. I started running seriously after college when my competitive sports career ended and I never turned back!

  2. says

    I’m not too competitive when it comes to running — probably because I know that I’m not that good at it, so I try not to discourage myself by looking at people who are better 😛 Snowboarding, though? I’m having secret competitions with everyone 😆 And I did actually like gym when I was younger… but not when we had to go swimming. That was mostly because it was in high school, though, and I didn’t wanna ruin my hair and makeup. Omg. What a girl 😛
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted…. thinking out loud #114 .My Profile

  3. says

    I always look, but I had one incredible moment when I was in high school working out at the YMCA that taught me never to judge. I saw a woman put her weight into the machine and I reaalized she weight double what I did. And after being the slow one in PE, I try never to judge. But I do try to outlast whoever is next to me haha
    susie @ suzlyfe recently posted…Being Food Drunk and the Ultimate Wine Life HackMy Profile

    • says

      I hear you. This woman I am referring to in this post is very overweight but has lost a noticeable amount in the last few months. She is there every time I am there which is serious dedication.

  4. says

    i used to glance at the treadmill beside me. that was until i got vertigo and haven’t been on a treadmill since. Probably a good thing! no racing. LOL!

    • says

      I know all too much from vertigo. It’s awful when the dizzy then faint thing happens. Worst feeling in the world. My gym teacher felt so bad when I fainted after running that time! She was so nice to me from that day on.

  5. says

    I try to avoid running on a treadmill next to anyone else. However, if Im on a machine behind someone on a treadmill (or even walking past the treadmills) I can’t help but peak. Part of it is curiosity, and Im sure part of it is ego even though I don’t want it to be. I was always pretty athletic but treadmill running was never my thing. I never ran on one until college and I set it to 5.0 and stayed there for a long time. It took a couple years to work my way up to the 6s. I have gone through phases where I have refused to run on a treadmill in fear of falling off.
    Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine recently posted…Random Things I Just Have Tell YouMy Profile

  6. says

    I relate to this from pretty much every angle – looking at the treadmill next to me (one of the reasons I hate treadmills!) hoping people realize I didn’t always run and running requires a crap load of work, and the whole “racing” on the treadmill thing! I hate all of it really, which is why running outdoors is so much more appealing. That way if I am running with someone else, we’re chatting and completely forget about pace and all that and just enjoy the activity.
    Michele @ paleorunningmomma recently posted…Scoliosis, Oven Cleaning, Yoga, and What I’m WorthMy Profile

  7. says

    I love this post Meredith and can not agree more. I am always competitive when it comes to working out, more with myself than anything but I do glance over at other peoples treadmill or in spin class when they show scores up on a board. I think natural competition is a good thing but when you start comparing yourself that is not good. You are not in that person’s shoes so you do not know there capabilities – focus on yourself and let others motivate to push yourself!
    Sara @ Lake Shore Runner recently posted…Life as of Late #TOLTMy Profile

  8. says

    Last week, I went to the gym for the first time in months. I try to run outside as much as humanly possible but I’m not into challenging my fate with ice. Anyway, one of the reasons I dislike the gym is because I don’t like people checking out my treadmill or watching me do anything for that matter. For me, I found that I can easily prevent my worries about treadmill races by draping a towel or a shirt over the clock… Stress free running and a much happier treadmill session!
    Lisa @ Lisa Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…Thinking Out Loud – January 22 EditionMy Profile

  9. says

    YEAH way to dominate!!! I started running when I was 13, but I had been playing soccer since I was 5 and that really set the foundation for me as a future runner.
    Suzy recently posted…Hot and BotheredMy Profile

  10. Frank says

    Sometimes I glance, mostly when the person is stomping like an elephant since I prefer a more gazelle-like approach.

    Annoys the heck out of me when people violate the “urinal rule” – always leave a space if possible. The other day, there were 7 open treadmills in a row of 8 and dome guy comes and uses the treadmill right next to me. How annoying is that!

    I’ve embraced the treadmill since I can’t embrace the frigid temps/icy roads. I am an injury-phobe as well.

    I have always run.

    I never really liked gym, except for the running. Sat out when possible. Had to make-up PE in college in order to graduate – I cut too many classes. Only thing worse than gym class was remedial gym class . . .

    • says

      Urinal rule made me laugh. Ha…And oh yes, I was one of the kids making up gym at 6:00 am because I didn’t change my sweatpants for gym class. I was always in trouble in gym. Hated it!

    • says

      That’s one of those times where it’s nice to have someone next to you just for the motivation! I don’t always have someone next to me either on the treadmill but on the really cold/snow/ice days, it starts to get crowded at “my” time.

  11. says

    I’m a huge treadmill racer. Good thing that these days I run at home on my own treadmill because I know that the “racing” was not a good idea very often. I do like your reason for not racing (unless it’s a guy of course!).
    I started running when I was about 15 – 30 years ago!
    Kim recently posted…The 45 Mile RunMy Profile

  12. says

    Love this! Running breeds competitiveness, within ourselves and with others. But sometimes it’s nice to get pulled back to reality and remember to not compare ourselves to others and do do what we can do best! xoxo, ganeeban

  13. says

    I love this, even though I’m not a runner, because the comparison thing goes for everything! Sometimes I see someone else that is better that X, Y, or Z thing and I get jealous or I get down on myself for not being as good… but we all have our own race to run and our own challenge to accomplish!
    Liz @ I Heart Vegetables recently posted…Monday’s MealsMy Profile

  14. says

    I see it as motivation when the person next to me is at a higher level than I, but that’s only when I feel warmed up. If I’m not warmed up, I feel like utter crap and start judging myself.

    This post is fantastic reassurance that you don’t have to be super fit right off the bat and that progress is a journey! I hope to start running as fast and long as you, Cookie Runner 😛
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