Expectations and pressure. Go hand in hand. One can’t exist without the other. Pressure creates expectations. Expectations we set on ourselves or set upon us.
Going into London Marathon training, I had a clear goal and as a result a lot of pressure. I’ve always set fairly high expectations on myself. Which definitely has a negative impact on my mental health and relationships with others. I knew I wanted to run a Boston Qualifier (BQ) time. A sub 3 hour 30 minute marathon. Doable but would require a lot of work.
For various reasons my mind was not in the game. January and February had a lot of missed training runs, bluntly a lot of them from lack of prioritisation. Not allowing running to be top priority. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But given my expectations on myself, not the way I should have been training. This definitely snowballed with my first ever DNF in a race. Racing a race where your half PB is creates a lot of internal pressure. Coupled with my mind playing games and a runner being mean I ended up crying at a support car and asking for a lift back. I was at mile 8. Maximum 45 minutes of running to go and I just couldn’t do it.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks later to what was meant to be a 30km run with various pickups. I got to 10km and cried. Proper tears bawling. I ended up just stopping the run and sitting in the Aberdeenshire countryside. I wrote an Instagram post putting my expectations in check and agreeing to just not go for the BQ. It was a horrid realisation that I just didn’t have it in me at that time. My fear of failure is pretty well documented and this just seemed like another failure. My parents ever my support network tried to help me look at the positive and we all agreed to just run this marathon. After every run no matter how good or bad they were always at the end of the phone.
March brought with it more curveballs resulting in running really going to the bottom of the priority list. Getting home late from visiting a relative at hospital leaves you tired, drained and definitely unmotivated. My brilliant coach, Matt agreed to drop down to 4 runs a week and even with that I was struggling to commit. My longest run of the whole training block was 17 miles. Or rather 14 miles. A temper tantrum. A serious talking to myself. Then a 3 mile run home. If anyone ever saw me crying or distraught on any of the Clyde canal paths – sorry
As the days to go to London started to reduce I really started to feel ill. Once texting Jenna outright saying I wasn’t doing London at all. Thank god she knows how to deal with me when I am being irrational. Trying to explain to colleagues how I was feeling was hard. They were used to me loving running and training hard and being focused. I fell out of love with running seeing it as a chore as opposed to a release. On the week of London I was counting down the days and hours until it would be over.
I said I wasn’t going for a PB which was half the truth. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to still wanting a PB whether it was merely seconds. I decided to grab a 3:35 and 3:40 pace band from the expo. Knowing full well if I got irate at not keeping pace I could rip them off. Side note, I put them on too tight and actually couldn’t take them off mid race.
I will do a future blog post on the actual race mile by mile. As for going in with very little expectations of myself and no real pressure it definitely paid off. I ran to enjoy myself. I smiled. I wore bright pink sunglasses that definitely made me feel cool and look a lot more together. I took in the sights. I loved running across Tower Bridge again. Knowing just how lucky I was to get the opportunity to run London again.
Ironically I know that running a solid PB will create more pressure. As I know what I really can do with more training. So instead of just creating more and more pressure I am going to try and change my mindset and attitude. Pressure and expectations just heightens my anxiety and fear of failing. So time to just put those both to sleep.