running away from self doubt

I’ve got a rather big event coming up in 3 weeks time – a half marathon in Hawaii. It’s big for lots of reasons:-
a) 21.1km is a looooong distance which I’ve never run before;
b) we’re flying a looooong way to get there (and have built our holiday around the fact I wanted to run it); and
c) I turn one of those big numbers shortly after the event and really, really wanted to finish a half marathon before this milestone birthday.

So what’s the problem? I’m starting to think I can’t do it.

My various injuries to my left leg which have plagued me since Easter are all now sending messages to me, both while running and while moving around the house. Sometimes they even send me little messages while I’m sitting down, perfectly still. Every twinge, tightness and tingle seems to be another mental tick on the ‘will not complete’ list.

As a result of my latest injury, a calf strain, I haven’t trained as much as I wanted to. The first 8 weeks of my training went brilliantly and I was on track (and improving) whereas the last 8 weeks have been sporadic, consisting of ‘gentle’ runs and of me being too scared to up the frequency for fear of aggravating my leg further. Now I am back to running a bit, I’m realising how much my fitness has suffered and I’m finding it hard to maintain the paces I was used to. As silly as it sounds, I feel like a fraud for being slow and undertrained and am worried someone might see me on the course and tell me I have no business attempting a half marathon. I did warn you – self doubt is insidious and leads to hugely irrational thoughts.

I’m also starting to have panics about the heat and humidity in Hawaii. Perhaps something I should have thought about before planning a holiday around it but I was won over by the romantic notion of running alongside the beach, being presented with a lei with my medal and relaxing in tropical bliss afterwards. It’s only now I’m starting to seriously doubt whether I’ll make it to the finishing line.

The rational part of my brain knows that these are all excuses. That I’ve completed things before which, at the time, seemed impossible and out of reach (the City2Sea being a good example). The time limit for the run is a generous one and I’m not out to beat any records, just to finish so, rationally, I know I can walk as much as I need to in order to finish. That the twinges I feel may be twinges but they may just be products of my overactive imagination. But self doubt doesn’t sit well with rationality and it feels a bit like a tug of war going on in my head.

At the end of the day, it’s that that’s keeping me going – working through all the positives, goals achieved and training I have done, rather than focusing on the things I can’t change. I’m also making peace with the idea that, on the day, I don’t actually have to compete if I decide it isn’t right for me at the time. That not completing one event is a small blip and not the big deal my ‘self doubt’ head wants to make it out to be. But, if I don’t run, it will be because it’s not the right thing/time, not because I feel like I can’t do it.

So, it’s over to you, blog readers. What do you do when self doubt creeps in and gets in the way of you achieving your goals? Any advice to help me put it all in perspective? What strategies and mantras do you use to push past it?

4 thoughts on “running away from self doubt

  1. On the day, I’m sure you’ll be fine. You’ll be carried along by the atmosphere of the event, and you will get through it. I think you just need to learn to manage the doubt until then!

    I love my foam roller for pushing through niggles, sometimes just reading for a good half-hour or so as I work on whatever the problem may be. I also find it fantastic for loosening up any tightness in the calf, provided I actually do it! I also think Lush massage bars are a great way to get some slip if you’re keen to use your elbow to get into sore spots. And compression socks!

    Also, there is absolutely nothing wrong with just doing gentle runs. You get to keep the legs ticking over, and pushing harder before your legs are ready can make the recovery take longer! Even heading out for a long walk still conditions the same muscles you use for running, and gets the heart going too.

    Finally, I can’t remember if you’re on Strava, but if you are, there’s no point in comparing your running pace to anyone else’s. I love Strava because it can be so social, but I also know a few parkrunners who are overly anxious that they are “too slow” compared to all the other parkrunners and friends on Strava. And trying to pick up Strava treasure on every run isn’t healthy! Even the super-speedy pros don’t hit a PR every run – or in each race!

    Take care, and I’m sure you’ll make it to Hawaii in the best shape you can possibly be. 🙂


    • Thanks so much for your comment and kind words – I think I was having a tough day and writing the blog post was somewhat cathartic! I’m feeling a bit better about it all today. I think you’re right, it’s about managing the doubt as it’s not going to go away completely until the finish line!

      You’ve given me some great advice – I’ve actually got my compression socks on as we speak which always make me feel better and am having a guilt-free rest day 🙂


  2. I’m not going to give you running advice (insert knowing laugh here) … but I am sure that once you hit that start line you will have a burst of adrenaline which should help with any initial pain! Nerves are good for us in relation to that sort of thing … they help reduce pain, and keep us awake during exams (at least that’s what I tell my year 12s) … the down side is they try to talk us out of doing stuff that is outside our comfort zone.

    Remember what happened that day you finished parkrun last? Oh yeah, that’s right, the world didn’t end and your legs didn’t fall off in protest 🙂

    I believe you can do this … and I will continue to believe this until the moment I find out whether you did or didn’t … and then I will refocus my positive energy on to believing you can complete the next half marathon you enter … or the full marathon!!

    ~ Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right! ~ Henry Ford


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