The dangers of comparing yourself to others

20 Mile Training Run

The big 2-0!

If you’ve been following me on social media (or reading the blog!) you’ll know that I ran my first ever 20-mile training run the other week. And I finished that run feeling so excited, proud, and capable. It took me 3h38, and I kept an average pace of 10:54, which puts me right where I want to be with regards to my sub-5 goal for this weekend’s Barcelona marathon (aaargh!!)

Result, right!?

The following weekend, a friend posted her latest training run (for her first marathon, in Rome next month) on Facebook. She ran 20 miles in 3h05, and I suddenly felt a bit rubbish. Suddenly, my 20 miler didn’t feel so good.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy and excited for her. She’s awesome and she’s worked hard to get where she is – I can’t wait to see her smash her goals in Rome!

But the doubts started to creep in. I started to wonder what I was doing. Why, after 3 years of marathon training, am I still chasing a sub-5 when others can go out and hit a crazy fast pace over 20 miles on their first go? Why do I bother? Shouldn’t I be faster than this by now?

Maybe I’m just not built for running. Maybe I’ll never be any good. Maybe I should give up now, and find another sport…

And then I gave myself a stern talking-to. Reminded myself that I’ve worked bloody hard to get to where I am. That 20 miles is EPIC. That I’ve run 2 marathons, which is a huge deal regardless of the time. That I’ve cut my 5k and 10k times down, have pushed on through injury and illness and reached the taper feeling strong and ready to run on Sunday.

Yes, I’m nervous. Yes, there’s a good chance that I won’t hit sub-5 on Sunday, because 26.2 miles is a flipping long way and anything can happen on the day.

But I’ve trained smart. I’ve gotten faster and stronger and I feel like it’s in reach. At Paris marathon last year, that goal ended up being a bit ambitious, but I really believe that I have it in me this time round.

No, it’s not the fastest time in the world. Should I be faster than this after 2 marathons? Will I ever hit those faster times? Who knows?

But also, who cares?

Running makes me happy. It makes me smile. It makes me push myself past my limits and gives me a sense of achievement and strength that nothing else does. It makes me look at my body in a different light – instead of focusing on my size, weight, or shape I can tell myself that my legs are awesome, because they can carry me miles and miles. My body is strong, and can run for hours. It’s done some pretty cool stuff.

There will always be someone faster, stronger, better. But at the end of the day, the only person I’m competing against is myself. And I don’t need to compare myself to anyone else.

So I’m going to stand at the start line on Sunday, and I’m going to soak up the atmosphere and be proud for even getting there. I’m going to make the most of every mile, because I’m able to run and I’m lucky to do something that so many take for granted (including me). I’m going to listen to the crowds and cheer on the other runners and smile the whole way round (well ok, I’m allowed a strop or 2 in the last few miles!) I’m going to explore a new city, grab a few high-fives from my lovely boyfriend, and I’ll cross that finish line.

Regardless of what the clock says, I’ll have run a marathon. And I’ll blooming well be proud of myself.

– – –

Do you compare yourself to others? How do you keep yourself motivated?

Advertisements

Struggling with nerves before a long run

You’d think that after 2 marathons, my brain would have gotten over the whole ‘ok, you need to run quite a long way now’ thing.

Erm, or not.

I recently mapped out an A-to-B route for one of my long runs, which I’ll be doing the weekend after next. (I was originally going to do it this weekend, but decided to give the 16 miler another go instead, and use this one as my last long run before the taper). Mapped out like that, it looks like a flipping long way:

Long Run Route

It’s actually Hampton Court to Worplesdon/Guildford, so not the whole thing! About 18-20 miles if all goes well. So still pretty far. (It takes 30 mins by train, and having also cycled the route I know it’s not something to be taken lightly!)

But I’ve done 18 milers before. I’ve done 16 milers, 17 milers, and 2 full marathons. And I did alright.

So why am I freaking out about running that distance this time round?

This seems to happen every year. I sign up for a marathon, I get to the 16-mile point, and suddenly I start to get so many doubts and insecurities when faced with the distance.

Last year, I did my 16 miler at the Kingston Breakfast Run, and crossed the finish line with a big grin, feeling strong and capable:

Kingston Breakfast Run 16m Finish Line

I think this year’s tendon injury has really set me back; not just physically, but mentally, too. My training started so well, with 5k and 10k PBs, and sub-10:00 miles for my 12 miler (unheard of for me!)

But each time I run, I worry about the niggle. I’m hyper aware of every ache and twinge, and I’m convinced it’s going to flare up again. I’m conscious of my bad running form, of my weak core and wobbly ankles and overpronation. And I’m starting to convince myself that I’m not strong enough to run long distance.

In previous years, I’ve hit tough patches in a long run and been able to power through them. This time round, I’m finding it harder and harder to stop myself from taking a walking break when it gets tough. I’m more sporadic, and feel like the mental side of things is letting me down.

My leg IS holding up ok, and I know that my body is capable of the distance. I’m faster than before, doing more cross training, and I’m progressing well. But I’m worried that I’ve psyched myself out – that I’ve lost the mental strength which has got me through those tough final miles in the past.

And without the mental strength, it almost doesn’t matter how much training I put in – I end up walking or stopping when I’ve still got energy in the tank and miles in my legs, and I could kick myself for wasting the long runs the way I’ve been doing.

Please tell me I’m not the only one!?

– – –

Have you ever faced this problem? How did you snap yourself out of it?

… Anyone fancy running 18 miles through Surrey or London with me in a couple of weeks!?

Barcelona Marathon Training: Week 7/16

I’m baaack!

These weekly training posts have disappeared for a little while now, thanks to a tendon injury I’ve been trying to recover from. This was my first full week of training after a 2-week break (which still included a bit of running, but at a gentle pace and nothing over 5k). Quite frankly, I haven’t really been doing enough for a weekly summary!

Today, I cut the scheduled 17 miler to 14 miles and re-jigged the plan a bit (thank goodness for cut-back weeks giving me some wiggle room…) and I’m officially back on track! Come at me, Barcelona!

Barcelona Training Run With Head Torch

I got a running backpack for Christmas, and a head torch a few weeks back, and today was the first time I ran with them. (Yep, I’ve been skipping my run commutes – ooops!)

I felt slightly dubious before I set off. Having used a belt and water bottle for my last 2 marathons, I felt like a bit of a wannabe with my new kit! But it made my run SO much easier. I’m never doing a long run without the pack ever again, ever ever ever! 😀

Barcelona Training Run With Head Torch 2

The head torch was seriously fun, too. Now that I can see where I’m going, the possibilities for run routes are ENDLESS, and thanks to the backpack they’ll be made even better with ALL THE SNACKS! (Oh, and I can now run home without faffing with my belt/tripping over tree routes. An added bonus).

Sooo, without further rambling, my week looked like this:

Tuesday: 5k @ 9:29/mile. I took it easy as I didn’t want to shoot off and have to walk home (the physio had told me to go easy on both speed and distance until my leg was better). It was tough after a break, but given that my 5k PB was 9:40/mile back in August, hitting 9:29 on an ‘easy’ run felt brilliant. And no pain, either!

Thursday: 4m @ 9:40/mile. This was meant to be 7 miles, but I ran out of time and cut it short. I also accidentally recorded the first half a mile as a cycle, rather than a run, but as a result I discovered the funky ‘multi sport’ option on my Garmin – so there’s that!

Sunday: 14m @ 10:16/mile. I also clocked a half marathon ‘moving’ time of 2:15:07, which is a PB of 7 minutes and 3 seconds! Woop woop! And miles 13 and 14 were my fastest, at 9:57 and 9:39. This isn’t counting the breaks I took to stretch, adjust the pack, put the head torch on, cross roads etc. but it’s pretty awesome regardless!

– – –

Do you have a spring race you’re training for? How’s it all going?

Barcelona Marathon Training: Week 4/16

Barcelona Marathon Training Injury

I learned last week that what I thought was a tight calf is actually something slightly more awkward. Thanks to weak ankles, over pronation and an increase in mileage, I overworked a tendon in my leg and have been paying the price for the past week and a half.

Last week’s training, as a result, was pretty minimal:

Tuesday: 5k on the treadmill. 1k warm-up, 3x sprints at 11.5, 12, and 12.5 kph, 1km warm-down.

Friday: Physio appointment! (I had optimistically booked a sports massage, but the leg had other ideas).

I’ve been told to take it easy for another week, and stick to cross training, stability and strength work; as well as keeping my runs short, slow and preferably flat.

It still niggles slightly, but is slowly improving, and I’m excited for my next run – which will be a steady 5k on Christmas Eve! I’ve told James he has to join me. That’s what you get for dating a runner…

Christmas spirit and all that, right? 😉

Fingers crossed that the stability work helps to fix the underlying problem, and will enable me to get back to my training properly after Christmas! I can’t wait to get stuck back in to my long runs and faster 5ks. My friends have set some pretty steep PBs, so I’ve got my work cut out for me!

It’s frustrating to be missing out on my runs, and I feel like my fitness is slipping away (silly really, as it’s been less than a fortnight). But the rest seems to be helping, and there’s no use in throwing myself back into training if it’s just going to cause issues again. I guess. (Grumble!)

Get it together, leg!

– – –

Have you ever had a running injury? How do you keep your spirits up? 

Barcelona Marathon Training: Week 3/16

After a strong week 2, my body has slammed on the brakes a little, and I’ve had a slightly niggly calf this week. Luckily, it feels like a tight muscle problem (my calves are notoriously bad for this) and nothing too serious, so I’ve eased off on the mileage and upped the stretching and Deep Heat. Thank goodness it was a cut-back week!

Whilst my leg has been in a right old strop, I’ve still managed 2 comfortable runs:

Wednesday: 6 miles @ 9:45. I had to stop and stretch a couple of times, but managed splits of 9:47, 9:36, 10:01 (long uphill), 10:00, 9:58 and 9:11 (biiig downhill).

Sunday: 3 miles @ 9:22. My calf played ball and I pushed for negative splits of 9:25, 9:22 and 9:20. Quite pleased with how consistent they were!

Marathon training is definitely a game of trial and error; of figuring out how far you can push your body before it begins to push back. Whilst the 4 runs might have felt manageable last week, I think the 12 miler (at a much faster pace that it should have been, truth be told) was pushing it a little – and if there’s anything my past 2 marathons have taught me, it’s to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.

So I’m heeding the warning signs, and have broken out the foam roller, and booked myself in for a Body Pump class tomorrow to work on my core and leg strength.

Fingers crossed for next week!

– – –

How do you incorporate strength training into your marathon plan? What are your favourite ways to cross-train?