I recently just finished a 5K (5 kilometer) race held in conjunction with the Quad Cities Marathon. I was part of the #FueledByFarmers team from the Illinois Farm Bureau.
Truth be told, I run because I like to eat. Running has also become my therapy time. I have yet to come back from a run in a bad mood.
I've quickly learned that there is always going to be someone who is faster, in better shape, or stronger than me. If I base my opinion of myself to comparisons of others, I will always be disappointed.
Thousands of runners came together this past weekend to run various races — from a 5K, to a half marathon, to a full marathon. I started back in the pack, so when I began I was with walkers and those that run slower than I do.
I began passing them and was somewhat annoyed that the walkers didn't stay in their lane and move to the right. As I joined up to my pace group, others were passing me. Some were pushing strollers. Some were older. Some were heavier than I was. Some were running longer distances than me. For a split second, I had a feeling that I was less successful than them. I thought to myself, "Look at how many people are passing me!"
Then, I had a mental pause. I looked up and didn't see the differences of the runners. Instead, I saw how we were all on a health and fitness journey. I realized I have to focus on myself and not on others. It's not my business to judge others. I don't know their story.
I came home and thought to myself, you know, it is so easy to compare ourselves as moms, friends, spouses, employees, and even as dairy farmers.
We all look a bit different. Our dairies look a bit different. We milk different kinds of cows. We milk different numbers of cows. We milk in different states and in different regions. Some of us farm crops, some of us don't. Some milk in tie stalls, some have parlors, and some have robots. Some of us have milked cows for generations, while others are just starting. Some have zero debt, and some are in debt by millions of dollars.
But, we must remember, that we all have our own story and face challenges. So, just when you think "it must be nice" and start judging others, try and remember to stay in your lane.
Be reminded that while there is no cookie-cutter formula to dairy farming, we are all connected through our values of producing a wholesome product and providing a way of life.
Stay in your lane, my friends. I could have become frustrated by all those that were passing me during the race and all those that finished before me, but instead, I thought of all of those that never laced up their shoes that day. So show up, do your best, and don't let someone's own, unique journey take the joy out of yours.
There will be hard days and amazing days. Just like running, life is a journey, and we are all just trying to get across the finish line.
Karen Bohnert is a second-generation dairy farmer, born and raised on her family dairy in Oregon and moved east after graduating from Oregon State University. Karen and her husband work in partnership with family, and they along with their three children live and work on the family's 500 Jersey cow dairy in East Moline, Ill. Karen's pride and love for dairy could fill a barn, and she actively promotes dairy anyway she can.