I ran until I heard the beep of my watch counting my mile lap, took a few more steps to hit .02 past (my running OCD), and then stopped my workout. I was a mile short of my long-run goal, but it didn’t matter. Walking back to my house, I contemplated how to change what I view as running success.
For years, I’ve obsessed over mileage goals. If I don’t hit a weekly goal, or a month or year goal, I feel like a failure. Like I’m not truly a runner.
For each setback in the past, my return to a higher level of running was forced. Many times, I tried to jump right back in, and that approach has not worked once.
My problem is over ambition, and I fall in that trap easily. Even on Sunday, when my focus was on finishing a long run no matter the pace, I struggled to let go of my goal.
I wanted to run 10 miles, a goal that seemed doable even in the heat, and I wasn’t going to worry about pace. But when I started to struggle around the seven mile mark, I started arguing with myself. Think angel and devil on the shoulders, only they were wearing running shoes instead of a harp and pitchfork.
On one side, my brain tried to convince me anything less than 10 miles total was complete failure. The other side told me to be smart and stop, because I had reached my limit. Walking back home and recovering is better than burning up completely and taking a step back, right?
Of course the correct answer was obvious: back off and avoid another setback.
I’m still having a hard time not obsessing about all the miles I’m not running. I gave up my year goal two months ago. I revised my July goal three times, and when I started mapping out my training plan a week ago, I immediately put myself back at 50+ miles a week.
This past spring, 50 miles in seven days would have been either a taper or recovery week. Now, it is not realistic. Running that much after the last four months of sporadic training and weeks off recovering is a dumb idea. And that’s before I factor in the heat.
So, instead of obsessing about failure, I need to redefine what I consider running success.
Sunday’s run was a success. I woke up in the morning (and yes, I missed my running group’s run and had to go alone later, but I’m focusing on the positives here). Around mile three, I found a good rhythm. I was smart in not pushing myself past exhaustion, and I completed my post-run stretching routine.
On Monday, I was sore from Sunday and decided to cut a five-mile run down to just three miles. This morning, I felt strong on an eight-mile run with my coworker that featured 6 times 800 meter speedups. My pace and mileage isn’t staggering on either run, but I can feel improvement.
I can’t let myself become depressed because I’m not running like I did back in January and February.
I’m choosing a new definition of running success. And by that standard, I’m having an incredible week.
Now I must keep it going.