I’ve always been annoyed at people who say “you’ll never regret going for a run”. Sure, 95% of the time I feel great after running, but sometimes running just makes me want to cry, is completely emotionally draining and brings up all the feelings of self-doubt that are hanging around in my head.
The session that has been getting me down lately is one that’s appeared in my training plan every Thursday in January: mile reps. The premise is simple: 1 mile warm up, 4 x 1 mile as-fast-as-possible with static rest for half the time the mile took, 1 mile cool down. And yet, something about this session just gets into my head and I give up before even really giving it a go.
I first ran the session in the first week of Jan, or rather, I ran the warm up, managed 100m of fast and then burst into tears. Tried another 100m with the same effect so gave up and went home.
The next time it came up on the plan I basically flat out ignored it and went to beigelrun instead.
Then this week it was “third time lucky?”. I left later in the morning so I’d be running in the light, started the first rep earlier where I knew I could distract myself with turning corners for a while, and promised myself that it wouldn’t matter if the first rep was a bit slower because I could warm up later.
And yet in the back of my mind was still this feeling of “I can’t do this”. I didn’t have a pace in my mind that I thought I needed to be running at (I tend to consider anything under 5:00 fast), and yet when my watch beeped 4:21 for the first km I had the same knee-jerk stop-right-now burst-out-crying feeling which left me sitting on a wall at the side of the park, sobbing, while people walked past on their way to work. #awkward
All I could think was that km pace was the same as my (new) ’10km pace’, and shouldn’t I be running much faster than that? And yet, I’d been pushing so hard for that whole kilometre already that I didn’t know how I could make myself keep going even for the next 600m.
In hindsight, I’m so annoyed with myself because I should have been capable of pushing through and completing that first rep, then going for a few more and finishing the session. That’s all well and good to say when I’m sitting on the couch writing this, but in the moment all I had was this overwhelming feeling of failure.
Today I read an article that Kelly from Run, Selfie, Repeat wrote for Women’s Running after she ran the Chicago Marathon and set a massive PB, but didn’t BQ as was her goal. In it, she talks a lot about the mental struggles she had to overcome in her training in order to get through the tough workouts, and to remove the idea of ‘failure’ from her mind. I strongly suggest you read it.
This is definitely something that I suffer from. I set incredibly high goals for myself, and can often feel like if I’m not being perfect, hitting all the training goals and managing all the moving pieces in my life (working at a start-up, running tons of marathons/triathlons/races, learning French, allowing enough time for my relationship, etc.) that I’m failing.
I need to accept that I am doing everything I can, and that perfect isn’t always possible. Mental strength is something that I want to work on.