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Sabotaging Myself


No training recap from last week (or this week), since there hasn’t been much training to, well, recap.  A couple of bike commutes and a few measly runs.  I’m going to blame my travel schedule for work, but only because I want something to blame other than myself.  Truth be told, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking the last few days about this upcoming half-marathon, as well as previous races that I’ve run.

I’ve mentioned before that I am not a prolific racer, and it should be obvious by the lack of race reports on this blog.   The last time I had what I would consider to be a race was the Lost Soul Ultra 100 miler back in September, 2011.  Yup, well over a year and a half has gone by.  In 2012, I ran two events, both 5k’s.  I don’t really consider them races because I didn’t prepare for them – I just ran them with no pressure, in my current state of fitness at the time.

When I reflect back on the races that I actually trained for and raced, I can note a pretty common pattern.  My training (and attitude about how well I’m going to finish the race) starts off great, and then as the event draws near, my training tanks along with my expectations.  It’s hard for me to go back and revisit all of my thoughts from previous races that were part of this downhill turn, but I have been analyzing the crap out of my attitude the last few weeks.  And here’s what I’ve come up with:

I self-sabotage myself because I don’t feel like I’m deserving of what I’m capable of. 

Twelve weeks ago, at the rate my training was going I felt like a sub 1hr 20 min half-marathon wasn’t out of the question.  It wasn’t guaranteed, but it was potentially within reach.  But I don’t feel like a sub 1:20 runner.  Most days I don’t feel like much of a runner at all.

As I read through various blogs, I see a common theme amongst nearly all of the “fast” runners out there – they have athletic pasts.  High school track, college cross-country, whatever.  They were always runners, or at the very least, they were always athletes.   Me?  Fuck, I hated gym class.  I was the fat kid that got picked last for team sports (or, if it was a particularly good day, second to last).   I was the kid that picked up my tennis ball and waddled ran home in the middle of a street hockey game when the neighborhood kids would make fun of my weight.  Even into adult life, I remember being on vacation and seeing people running in the mornings at the resort, and wondering to myself, ‘who the hell would want to do that when they’re on vacation?’

I started running mid-2008, as a means to improve my poor health.  It doesn’t matter that five years later I’ve completed a 100-mile ultramarathon or that I’ve run a sub-18 minute 5k, I still don’t respond confidently when others ask me, “are you a runner?”  (ironically I do get mildly offended if people call me a jogger).

When a race is far off in the distance, it’s easy for me to dream about my finish time.  As the race draws closer and becomes more reality than dream, I don’t have the confidence in myself to believe that my dream finish times could be a reality.  Well, maybe that’s not entirely true.  Perhaps it’s more of the feeling that I’m not worthy of the finish time that I want.

Sitting here right now, I honestly believe that I am capable of running a sub-3 hour marathon (with the proper training, not tomorrow, obviously). And I also honestly believe that I could reach that goal this calendar year.  But I believe that I can do that because running a marathon is an event that’s in the future.  I’m not actively training for a marathon right now.  I haven’t registered for one yet, and I don’t even know for certain when I’ll run one again.  So it’s easy for me to look at the tempo paces that I can pull off in training, or how quickly my body recovers from a long run.  I can plug my paces into the McMillan Running Calculator and have ‘professional’ confirmation that my dream of a sub-3 hour marathon is a reasonably attainable goal.

When I started training for this half-marathon (now a mere 8 days away), I was pulling off tempo runs at just over a 6:00/mile pace.  I felt that with the added speed & endurance that I should gain during the training cycle, a finish time close to 1:20 wasn’t going to be out of reach (~6:06/mile average pace).

The closer the race has become, the less confidence I have in myself.  I started looking at previous race results, and quickly realized that a 1:20 half-marathon puts me right near the front of all of the finishers at these non-elite events.  “I don’t belong near the front.  That’s where the real runners are.  That’s not me.”

Boom.  Just like that I started put less and less emphasis on my training.  A few missed tempo runs, avoiding long runs, and less weekly mileage.  It wasn’t a conscious decision I made, but in hindsight it has been a pattern that I’ve repeated before essentially every “recent” race.

As my wife and I look to expand our family, this isn’t exactly one of my finer traits that I’d want to pass along to our kids.  Hopefully now that I’ve become more aware of my self-sabotaging, I can try to make strides to stop it (without going into an unnecessarily long story, let’s just say that I have a history of sabotaging my dreams in other parts of my life too).  I know that overcoming this is going to require an increase in self-confidence and self-esteem, neither of which have been a specialty of mine, ever.  ­I’m just not really sure where to begin.



  1. Indi says:

    never mind the athletic past…you have talent! Speed like what you have doesn’t just happen its there and you just have to dig deep, find it and let it go out on that race! Now get your head games out of your ass…and go get that 1:20 half being the runner we all know you and are deep down you know it! Just do what you love!!!! You’ve got this!!!!

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I’m pretty sure I left that 1:20 half on the couch a few weeks ago. I’ll still do what I can this round, but I think that’s going to be a lot closer to 1:30 given my current fitness and recent (lack of) running.

      • Gina says:

        1:30 is still hella impressive.

        I think self-awareness is the first step, so the fact that you’re recognizing these patterns and want to do something towards changing them is great.

        What I would do is make a really detailed plan for the time you have until that half-marathon and force yourself to stick to it religiously. Really reach for that 1:30. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t make it, but DO beat yourself up (a little anyway 🙂 for not letting yourself try.

        And then next time around, have that detailed training plan in place from the beginning and really take note of every time you self-sabotage, or even when you start to feel that motivation flagging. It sounds cheesy, but journaling your triggers and starting to assemble a toolbox of coping mechanisms to get past them can be really helpful.

  2. The mental side of training can be so much more important than the physical. Runner’s World and Triathlon Magazine have had some really good articles on this recently. I think a lot of people battle this issue.
    I can be really down on myself. Then I remember- I do it for fun and because I love it. So whether I place first or last, it shouldn’t matter.
    I hope you race the half and just get out there and enjoy, whether you get the sub-1:20 or not!

    • Realistically, I’m quite sure my body doesn’t have a sub-1:20 in it right now, but that’s my own fault and I’m slowly coming to grips with that. My last few important races were ultramarathons, and the mental side of things really comes in to play with those. But when faced with a hundred miles ahead of me, I just had to decide that I would finish, not how long it would take me to finish. Running for speed is a whole different mental challenge that I’m just not used to!

  3. Brittany says:

    If you aren’t a runner then I don’t know who is! Don’t doubt yourself. I recently read about Evelyn Steven’s story about going from wall street to a US Olympic cyclist in her late twenties – just awesome! I was so inspired; she just went for it. It reminded me you can do anything later in life if you choose to.

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