Doubt makes for a bad running partner
Last week I ran 10 miles. 10 steady, climb those hills, grunt out the pain, just keep going miles. It’s the farthest I’ve ever run, and somewhere in all of it, I found myself stunned, “When did I become this person? Who knew I could really do this?” Even as I write, the accomplishment draws a smile across my face.
The 10 are a significant chunk of a larger goal: a half marathon in September. I’ve come to crave the rhythm training has added to my week—the shorter weekday runs paired with the major accomplishment of the weekend long run. I have loved feeling my body go farther and faster.
But not today. Today, I set out alone to conquer the next marker: 11 miles.
Every time I run I square off with my critic. I hear the taunt, “your limit is here.” I war with the question “Really? You think you can do this?”
It was there today as I reached to my toes and felt the stretch elongating my leg. “You can do this,” I breathed in determination.
The run always starts too fast, but I was happy with how quickly I noticed and pulled back a bit, creating a smooth and even stride. I began to feel my target pace; I began to listen to my heart rate—both were right in range for most of the run. I felt relaxed at miles 3-6, steady in my rhythm, and I felt strong at miles 7 and 8 as I kept my pace rather than yielding to the adrenaline rush to push too hard. But as hitting mile 9 crept up, so did the doubt.
10 miles last week took everything inside of me. I ran at the heels of my friend that last mile the whole time—numbly reciting, “Just keep going. You can keep going.” Nothing in my body wanted to continue, and at the same time everything inside me screamed, “Finish! Because you’ve come so far!”
I knew I was close, and I knew I could hold on to Tracy’s pace at the end. So I pushed; raw grit battling the doubt till we crossed the threshold. I felt elated and immediately anxious: will I have what it takes to go further next week?
The insecurity came so quickly, and it was powerful as it flooded back today with mile 9 closing in and a bleak 2 more miles to conquer instead of the 1. I wasn’t ready for how daunting it would feel to face those miles alone.
The phrase crashed in loud, thundering over the pace I was trying to maintain. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this.
“Just one more mile,” the words that had punctuated my thoughts over and over last week, squeezing out endurance from resolve, weren’t true anymore. 2 more miles felt like an eternity, and I couldn’t get the doubt to stop shouting. So I stopped instead.
The same sweat, the same burn, and no victory.
After a few paces, I attempted to kickstart myself back into the goal and run the final 2 miles…my whole body felt like cement. I made it less than a quarter mile before saying, “forget it.”
The walk to get home was laced with the disappointment of almost.
I know stories and people are made better when the threat of failure is real.
But where do kindness and ambition become friends inside of me? How do I marry the hope of what I can do with blessing for who I am today?
Whatever the answer, there is more in me than the doubt believes. Just because I couldn’t challenge doubt today, doesn’t mean I won’t challenge her tomorrow.