I have spent much of my life doubting myself. Even when getting good grades at school as an ‘objective’ (let’s not even go into the fact that examinations are a ridiculous benchmark that is supposed to show someone’s intelligence, pitting them against their peers in a really unhealthy way) I have always thought I’m not good enough. So throughout my life I have pushed myself to be better than the day before for fear of not being good enough as I am. I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week after listening to a podcast about ‘Insecure Overachievers’ (Listen here). I’m not an ‘overachiever’ by any stretch of the imagination, but I allow my insecurity to push me forward in all forms of my life. Is this a good thing? I’m not so sure.
What I love about running is the periods I have when I am simply doing running and I’m not thinking about whether I am on pace, or running a better pace, or beating a PB. I enjoy running without a watch sometimes because I get home and feel like a bad ass who just ran the equivalent of Cambridge to London without actually having a clue how far I ran. I enjoy feeling like a good runner just…because. But the problem comes when people ask you your pace, your goals, what you want to achieve. Because the issue with that is that if you don’t achieve it, or your pace slows, you feel a sense of failure. I never started running to think in this binary way of success or failure, but sometimes I can feel it creeping into my conscious like a bad headache.
Yet at the same time I don’t think I will ever not need the external validation of running a PB. Having self-doubt is sort of part of my bones now and I don’t necessarily think there’s a whole lot I can do about it, other than owning that feeling and trying to make it into a more positive part of my existence. What I can do about it is ensure that it stays manageable. I can rejoice in getting a PB in a race, but I can also rejoice in doing my best in a race. I have grown up with people telling me constantly that as long as I do my best that’s all that matters, and at the ripe age of 24, I really am trying my damnedest to make sure that’s always at the forefront of my mind.
So do I care about the numbers? Yes. But why do I run? Because in amongst the numbers, the pre-race anxiety, the worry about not being good enough, there are these snippets when I run when I am just that. A runner, running along a road, thinking of nothing but putting one foot in front of the other.