Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The thing about self-doubt

We have all been there. 80 per cent of the way through a training cycle you begin to think “maybe my goal was too lofty”, “there is no way I can crack that time”, “what if I don’t finish”.  I call this the “I can’t” phase. Not every runner experiences it to the same degree. My husband, for example, never doubts.  Maybe this is because he puts more work in than me and trusts the algorithm of training completely.  Maybe he has not felt the crushing pain at km 18 or 39 that screams you should just quit.
Recently a running friend who is closing in on her first full marathon asked me if the long runs ever get easier.  My short answer was no, but I thought about it after and realized what she was really experiencing was the tiny seeds of self-doubt trying to plan themselves.  “It is too hard”, “I can’t do it”…“what was I thinking”.  This discussion came as follow up to one a few days earlier when she asked me if I ever felt like I just “could not get through a workout”.  For the record, if anyone ever tells you they have not experienced this they are not being truthful.

Why does this happen so often throughout the training cycle and what can a runner do to combat these negative feelings?
I think the first thing is realizing it is normal to feel this way. You are getting closer and closer to a big goal. Big goals are scary, even terrifying at times.  You are also tired.  Training volume is near its peak and your body and mind are exhausted. This is all part of the plan and the glorious taper week(s) that will be coming your way.

As someone who doesn’t have a particularly strong mental game leading up to a race, here are some things that work for me:

·         Resist the urge to run more than your training plan calls for.  Runners tend to take a more is better approach. We are horrible at listening to our bodies and will push through a workout rather than take a much needed rest day, shorten a run or pull back on pace.

·         Find a running mantra. Some of my favorites are “it’s not supposed to be easy” and “you are stronger than you think”.

·         Believe in the process.  If you put in the work, you have to trust that on race day you will tap into that next level.

·         Prioritize self-care (aka take a break). There comes a time when a break will be much better for you than feeling you did not hit a workout. It is ok to rest, regroup and come back and crush a workout.  The training benefit is also better.  I’m not saying miss a week or two, but try to listen to the signals your body (and mind) are sending your way.

Do you experience a lot of doubt leading up to a race? Do you have a go to mantra while training or racing?


  1. I think when you are training for a longer race that you have never done before (i.e.: a marathon), there will always be a little self doubt. The trick is learning to push those thoughts out of your head and tell yourself that you CAN do it!

    I was in Edmonton for Easter and was thinking about messaging you to see if you were free for a run, but then chickened out :)

    1. You should have messaged me!! I thought I saw an instagram photo of you running here! Next time ;)

  2. I love this post. I definitely suffer from self doubt with running every single time I'm out there.

    1. Me too! Every time I race. My biggest issue is I won't register for a race until I am absolutely ready.


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