Doubting my abilities

I’m starting to have doubts.

I know that’s not really true. I just had a bad running day. Which, lately, has been all too common. It seems I’ll have one really solid or even great run. And then half a dozen really awful ones. Today was the latter group. On Tuesday, we had freezing rain in the morning so I opted to sleep in a bit, figuring my lunchtime run was nixed. But it had warmed up the rest of the day, and the rain had mostly stopped. So by 5 p.m. it was foggy and muggy, but wasn’t raining, and was 35 degrees. I stepped outside – no ice on the sidewalk (though there were some patches, I discovered). So I decided to go for it. I slipped into a cold gear Underarmour shirt, some tights, my favorite running jacket, grabbed my iPod (in case – I didn’t use it), keys with gym member card, and my headlamp for later, and ran the mile to the gym for pilates. It was fabulous! I set a great pace, and with if I hadn’t had to slow down to a walk on a couple messy/icy patches, I probably would have hit tempo pace for the whole mile.

Pilates was great. The instructor announced that her class was no longer a pilates “primer” as advertised (she’s had it for a year) but she still goes over basics and offers easier options for newbies. But she recognizes me now, even though I’ve only been going a few months. She even complimented my hair cut. 🙂 It was a rough class – she absolutely assaulted my hips and legs on the sideline series at the end. It took a bit to get the blood moving to them effectively again, but I made it the mile back, guided by my headlamp.

Yesterday, because I’m a pansy, I skipped spinning. Honestly, I think that may be part of it. There’s a class on Saturday I may go to instead. I did my own cycling workout and three sets of striders (around the indoor track, sprinting the straightaways, jogging the curves, two laps at a time, so 4×3). I was feeling pretty strong, though a little mentally weak for having skipped spinning. Truly: it sucks. I kind of dislike it. I’m not really a fan of the instructor, but it’s a brutal workout my mind needs as much as my body. I have to learn how to suffer for the short term so I can garner the long term gains.

So today, I had intended to do two Negley-Wilkins loops (about five miles total) but as good as I felt at the beginning, for some reason, as I approached that huge, steep Negley climb, I mentally gave up. I just… didn’t have it today. I took some walk breaks, like the weakling I am, and made it a 3.8 miler. And a slow one at that.

I know it was just a bad day. I know it was all in my head. But when this happens, it’s hard not to doubt that I can do this. To doubt that I’m actually a “real” runner. And it’s funny, because I think that anyone who gets out there and tries, however slow, however fast, however few or many walk breaks, is a runner. Except me. We’re all our own harshest critic.

I’m no speed demon. But there was a time when I could bang out 6:30 mile splits. What happened? I remember when I was only 15 (nearly 16) and I ran 3 miles in 18:42. I was really suffering – I kept checking my watch, cursing my legs, sure I was going slower than my last timed 3 miler (which was a little over 19 minutes) and wondering why I couldn’t get myself to go any faster. But I was. I was faster. A lot faster. I was stunned when I finished. But the whole time, as frustrated as I was, I was pushing. I was running through the pain – no, straight into it. I faced it head on and asked for more.

What happened to that? What happened to my ability to run in the face of pain? I want it back. And there’s no quick fix. I can’t just do some mile repeats or a few tempo runs and expect it back. There’s this feeling in the back of my mind that if I practice running fast, if I practice hills, it will be easier. It won’t, really. I’ll be much stronger – yes. And I’ll be better at managing the pain, running through it – running headlong into it – but it won’t disappear.

That whole “pain is weakness leaving the body” crap is total bull, in my opinion. Pain is there for a reason: certain pains tells us when we are hurt, or sick. When we really should stop because we’ve reached our limit. But I know my limits are farther than this. I’m fit. I’m strong.

(I think)

For now, I’ll keep on running. I just need to remember why I love it, so when I go running into the pain, at least, then, I’ll be doing something I love.

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I'm a 35-year-old writer and runner. This is my running blog.

2 thoughts on “Doubting my abilities

  1. Hang in there! I know the feeling. I think we all doubt our “runnership” at times. But if you really weren’t a runner, it wouldn’t be bothering you. Keep on doing what you are doing and it will get better. A very good and honest post by the way.

    1. Thanks! I agree – we all have days, or weeks, or running that we just can’t get in a groove and wonder if we’re kidding ourselves. But we just need to get out there again. I had a much better run today, and am glad I pushed myself to do it.

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