Four years after starting the discipline regularly, I still got nerves when I put on my running shoes. I knew it was good for me, but I didn’t really want to do it. I was slow. I had to enter events to keep myself motivated. I huffed and puffed painfully up Rapaki, Dyers Pass, and Bowenvale Valley, walking far more than I ran. I wasn’t comfortable running with anyone else; even stepping out with JCB was fraught with the fear of not being fast or fit enough. Some years the anxiety won, and I went for months without pulling on my shoes.
The chattering monkeys upstairs talked a lot about achievements, used the word “should” a lot, and was woefully obsessed with what other people were doing when they ran. They looked so streamlined, so accomplished, so carefree.
The runners I knew talked abou it either as a religion or an amphetamine. The pace, the breathing, the rhythm, the views, the sense of achievement – they never seemed flustered like I did. They couldn’t survive without running.
Meanwhile, I felt like I had to enjoy every aspect of running to be a runner. My self-consciousness swallowed me up. My lack of fitness made me feel like a fraud. I was getting it wrong. Ergo, I wasn’t a runner.
After four years of this unhealthy mindset, I realised that I actually had a choice. Maybe it was the counselling which was helping me realise I didn’t have to be held hostage by what was being said upstairs. Maybe the benefits of pounding the pavement were starting to show. Maybe it was when I finally talked to others and learned how mistaken my views were.
I finally noticed that I wasn’t getting joy out of this sport. Why was I wasting my time in this headspace?
So, in the last year, I’ve tried to focus on the benefits of running. I have tried use the anxiety as fuel. I’ve tried to take the weight out of the expectations I have for each run. I’ve tried to be kinder to myself. I’ve tried to remember what running gives me.
I’m still trying to remove the word “should” from my vocabulary, and replace it with “get to”.
On Saturday, I was able to do a hill run for the first time in over a year, and the only way I had enough confidence in myself to get up to the Sign of the Kiwi without drowning in dispair was to do it my way: run for as long as I could, allow myself breaks when I needed them, and most of all, take the 15 seconds to enjoy the view along the way.
What a difference that made.
I think we’ve all got a word. An identity we strive towards that we don’t think we deserve to claim.
What word are you not claiming for yourself?
Take the “should” out of it. Use the fear as fuel. Be gentle with yourself. Let go of the expectation of any outcome. Remember, you can choose to turn “pro” at any time.
If you don’t start to claim that word as your own now, what are you giving up?