When preparing becomes a hindrance

In my first blog post, I admitted that I use tremendously detailed plans to feed my self-doubt and give up before I begin. There is something extremely satisfying about plotting out details and logistics, whether or not I intend to follow through. That’s how I daydream - in vivid detail. I should probably mention that both of my parents are (or were at some point) engineers. I could not have avoided inheriting the problem-solving gene, thinking several steps ahead even if nobody has asked me for a solution. I will follow a single idea so far down a rabbit hole of possible outcomes and solutions that I completely lose track of time.

Today was the kind of day that could have become a trap. I could have made any number of excuses not to go running. We’ve had an extremely cold week and my gym has been closed. Staying inside and inactive caused me considerable distress for a few days, and yet the idea of getting my run in today did not excite me. I worried a lot about missing two other planned runs this week. Was I even still in cardio shape to have a long run? I didn’t eat enough yesterday. I didn’t sleep well. I drank a lot of coffee at work. I should’ve run in the morning when I was more fresh. In fact, I had all of these excuses on the tip of my tongue throughout the day. What I was really feeling was doubt about my ability to run 10 miles, and without having the perfect conditions I was sure I would fail. I was trying to find a way out so that I wouldn’t be a disappointment. Let me say that again - so that I wouldn't be a disappointment. Here’s where preparedness becomes a hindrance. The lack of adequate preparation is an easy excuse to not try. It’s less about whether or not conditions are perfect and more about finding ways to blame myself for not doing well.

Let’s take a step back. What’s the worst that can happen if I don’t run 10 miles today? What’s the worst that can happen if I run 7? Or as long as I can until I feel I’m done? What if I run 10 miles but I do it more slowly than the goal time I planned for? More importantly, what is the bigger picture? That’s the most useful question. I have a larger goal than completing this run today. The larger goal is to run a marathon. To do that, I have to train. Within that goal, there are so many other smaller goals. Many of them have nothing to do with time or ability. I want to enjoy running. I want to continue to have the discipline to prioritize my health and fitness. I want to learn what I am capable of, even on the tough days. I don’t have to hit every goal time. I don’t have to check every box along the way to achieve the greater goal. I already have another several pages to share about non-linear progress. Talk about a rabbit hole. Let me stick with one topic for today - desire for preparedness and how it can feed self-doubt.

I ran 10 miles today. I did it under some strange circumstances and in a way that I had definitely not planned for. I ran the first mile outside, on a track that was so icy and so muddy that it was absolutely not safe. After that, I had to change into a pair of backup shoes I keep in my car and I realized too late that they really aren’t the right size - holy blisters. I ran the other 9 miles inside, in the nearly empty gym (Go sportsball!), without headphones after the first hour. Here’s the weirdest part. I ran 12 seconds per mile faster than the goal time that I had set for myself. It turned out that I was completely capable of what I was afraid to do. Unfortunately, in surpassing the time I had planned on, I missed the point of the scheduled run. I failed. Why? Because the purpose of these longer runs is to learn how to pace myself. Yes, it’s conditioning too. It’s building stamina. But it’s also mentally preparing for running further than I can imagine running. After the warmup, I always want to run fast. I was supposed to run this one slowly. I was supposed to add 45 seconds per mile to my projected marathon pace. Pacing is not my strength. I am the kind of person who does too much too fast and burns out. Pacing is a huge part of what I’ve been hoping to learn during this process. Pacing is not getting lost in the details because you are able to retain a sense of the big picture. I’m not a big picture person, but I’m learning.

In writing all of this and knowing that I intend to share it publicly, I realize that I failed myself in a different capacity today. I failed to find joy in my accomplishment and acceptance of myself. I completed the task and still found food for my self-doubt. I found something to pick apart. These goals are showing me myself and I am thankful for that. Every thought I have about this process is an opportunity to reflect.

Alexandra Kassouf