Running – like life – has both its ups and downs. The ironic thing is that in running it’s the downhills that you look forward to. Downhills are easy: you can catch your breath a little bit and savour the ease at which you cover ground while gravity does a fair share of the work. Running up a hill is a different story, however, as gravity tries to pull you back down and you struggle to keep your legs churning to reach the top.
Well I’ve been stuck on a bit of an uphill for the last little while with my running. Ever since I did that 10k (yes I know that was a month ago) I have been having the hardest time running even the shortest distances. I can’t even finish a 5k before my breath is coming out in tight wheezes, I’m mentally exhausted, and my legs feel like they’re made of iron (as in they are very, very heavy, not that they are super strong).
I cannot figure out what is going on. I set out all keen and raring (okay, perhaps not quite raring, but nearly) to go but before I’ve finished the first kilometre I’m already struggling and having to convince myself to make it to the next street corner. At first I thought it might be that I’d pushed myself too hard on the 10k and hadn’t given myself enough time to recover from a distance I hadn’t ever done before. I gave myself a few more days of recovery time, taking it nice and easy and tried it again only to yield the same dreaded result (if not worse). I told myself that it was okay, it was really hot and humid that day and that kind of weather often plays havoc with my asthma, but I was desperately trying to convince myself that I wasn’t a failure. My third attempt after the 10k yielded the same results yet again. I thought, maybe I’m just going out too fast in the first kilometre and wearing myself out trying to improve previous times, but when I checked my splits I was gutted by the fact that my pace for the first kilometre was a good 30 seconds slower than my average pace usually is, and that was my fastest kilometre for the whole run.
It’s one thing to know that you’re going to have a bad run here and there, everyone does, but it’s another to come off this high of having accomplished a distance you thought it would take you so much longer to reach, only to fall flat on your face when you try to do something that you thought had become a manageable task. It puts a dent in your self-confidence. Not a big one, but it’s noticeable. The first flop, I chalked it up to a fluke, just one of those runs that doesn’t go great. But after the second, and then the third flopped run, I was seriously doubting my running ability.
I’m not proud of this, but I gave up. Not permanently, because even as I write this I want to get out there and actually fucking do the whole 5k, no stopping, no whining, no giving in. But I temporarily threw in the towel for running. Instead I focused on working out at my gym and working on improving my strength. I could say that I wanted to make my muscles stronger so that I could run better, but I just wanted a distraction from running that would keep me active and give me a sense of accomplishment. Something that would help build up my self-confidence a little before I took on that 5k again.
I’m approaching that level of confidence/determination/refusal-to-quit that I need in order to lace up my shoes and get out there again, but there is still a lingering doubt in the back of my mind that’s whispering awful things. What if I can’t do it? What if I’ve hit my (absolutely laughable) “peak” and I’ll never run a marathon? Maybe it’s because I don’t have enough willpower to see this through. Maybe it’s because I don’t want it badly enough. Maybe I just plain suck and should give up and relish in the life of a couch potato. That doubt is horrible. I just want to take that tiny little voice and squash it like a bug, show it who’s boss, that I can do it!
But I’m not there quite yet. I know that I can have all the confidence in the world when I step out of my door, but I also know that it can vanish into thin air when I start to have problems as early as the first 500 or 800 metres. I will keep building myself up in the face of that doubt by giving myself little pep talks and envisioning myself finishing that 5k until the day that I can turn to my doubt and give it a giant middle finger. Until then I take baby steps and make funny faces at my doubt when it’s not looking.
I hope you’re crushing your own doubt, happy running!