Friday, March 30, 2012

Realism vs. Self Doubt

You want to know something that I love about running (aside from the fact that it makes walking down stairs just a little bit harder...)?  You can find so many spectacular metaphors for life in running.  Last Friday evening, as I was making my weekly ritual salad + veggies + spaghetti dinner, I was talking with my good friend, Beth (also a runner), on the phone.  As many of you know, I was in hard-core pursuit of hitting a specific time goal when I run the Lincoln Half Marathon on May 6th.  I was training to run the half marathon in less than 2 hours and 10 minutes.  But, with the recent knee injury, requiring a couple weeks of no running and a couple more of very limited running, I have been questioning whether or not my goal is still realistic. 

So, Beth and I got to talking a little about this idea of being realistic (crazy, right?).  And as we were talking, I realized that, for me, it's not realism I struggle with so much - at least not when setting running goals, or usually, any other kind of goals - but self doubt.  For example, last year, I also had the goal of running the half marathon under 2 hours and 10 minutes.  I trained well.  I was ready to go.  I had a terrible race (meaning I felt like absolute crap from the get-go) and still came in at 2:13:27.  My goal was realistic.  But I doubted whether or not I could run 13.1 miles at the pace I needed to in order to meet the goal.  I doubted whether or not I could maintain my pace after running up the 20th St. hill.  I doubted whether or not I could hold on during those last few miles.  And all of that doubt blew my realistic goal right out of the water.

This year, training was going spectacularly.  I was finding it easy to maintain paces around 10 minutes/mile and I was loving it.  Just before (or on the cusp of) the injury, I ran 5 miles in Lincoln with my good friend Lana and we ran the last two miles in at around a 9:15 pace.  Comfortably.  I was certain that 2:10 would be no problem this year.  Now, though, I'm getting back into shape.  I'm walking a very fine line between pushing myself to come back too quickly and getting back to pre-injury speed.  And as I struggle through the tough runs thinking, "I'm totally hitting a 10:30 pace right now" only to look down at the Garmin and see 11's and 11:30s, I can feel the doubt creeping in.  I wonder, "Is my goal still realistic?"  Or, "How am I going to run 13 miles at a 9:58 pace when I can barely run 3 miles at an 11:00 pace now?"  So, on the one hand, I don't want to set myself up for another injury or disappointment by hanging on to an unrealistic, unattainable goal.  But, on the other hand and more importantly, I don't want to let self doubt get the best of me...

Very, very, very luckily, I ended up having a fantastic long run on Saturday.  It restored my faith in my fitness, my current running ability, and myself.  It made me realize that doubting myself isn't going to get me anywhere that I want to be.

And that's where the metaphor for life comes in.  It's important to be realistic in life. I mean, walking around thinking I'm most certainly the next Sarah Hrdy (sorry for the inside anthro nerd reference) or that I can run a 1:30 half marathon also won't do me much good. 

But, self doubt, and ESPECIALLY self doubt masquerading as realism, isn't going to get me anywhere I want to be in my life.  Doubting myself won't help me be a better student, write better papers, or be a successful academic.  Doubting myself will also not help me be a better friend, daughter, or sister.  And it won't help me be successful in romantic relationships.  In fact, self doubt will most certainly hinder my ability to do all of those things.  Humility and realism are good.  But belief in yourself, trust in your own abilities, is even better.

Friends, please weigh in on this!  Do you more often find yourself in the "need to be more realistic" or "need to stop doubting and go for it" camp?  Where is the line between the two?  And how do you walk that line?