Leaning into the power of perspective as I get closer to the start line of the Marine Corps Marathon. (Sarah’s Pants: Vitality)
This morning, after I returned home from my track workout, my husband, as he often does, asked me how it went.
“It was ok, I guess,” I said with a shrug as I poured coffee, my mediocre response reflecting the swirl of doubt that had descended upon my mind the second I finished the workout: Was it long enough? Was it fast enough? Am I doing enough?
In the thick of marathon training—or training for any major challenge, for that matter—it’s easy to get stuck in the mindset of more, more, more: More miles. More strength work. More sleep. More intervals. We become programmed to do all the things all the time so that we are fully prepared for battle on race day. More is better, right?
Let’s be honest: Doing all the things all the time is not sustainable. At least not for me—a truth I’ve accepted after decades of piling an unhealthy amount of pressure on myself to, well, do it all. I don’t nail every workout. I take days off. I stay up late. And I certainly don’t run any longer than I have to. I’m being purposeful and resolute in this build towards the Marine Corps Marathon, but I’m also giving myself space to relax and rest, to have a life outside of training, to treat tender spots, and to avoid the pitfalls of pressure I’ve succumbed to before.
Running isn’t just a physical act: it seeps into your psyche.
Still, as cavalier as I try to be about marathon training on the surface, it does take up a vast amount of subconscious space. After all, running isn’t just a physical act: it seeps into your psyche. A good run can completely turn my day around, it can even bring me to happy tears (a phenomenon I recently learned is known as the “runner’s cry”). I probably spend 50 percent of my waking moments thinking, in some form or another, about running—this marathon in four weeks in particular. It’s omnipresent because it’s important.
So it didn’t surprise me when I fell back into the more=better mindset as I entered the pointy end of the marathon training block last week. As race day creeps closer and closer and my goals take on a distinct shape, I’m met with the desire (sprinkled with a side of panic) to do all the things—and do them perfectly. Which is why I initially considered this morning’s workout just “ok.” Yes, I got up early (always a win for me) and got to the track in the pitch dark to meet friends. Yes, I went under my goal times in the 2K and 1K repeats. But no, I didn’t do the set of fast 400s (a decision based on lack of time and a whiny knee). And no, I didn’t get in the prescribed total mileage because of that.
“Not enough, not enough, not enough,” the chorus of shame sang in my head.
“But wait! Go back and look at how far you’ve come!” a tiny voice tried to shout over the cacophony of doubt. “Have some perspective!”
Consistency, not perfection, is what gives me the confidence to believe in myself, to silence the chorus of uncertainty.
Fortunately, perspective can be found right on my phone. All I had to do was scroll through my Strava feed, where I’ve posted nearly every workout of this training block. At the beginning of the summer, I suffered through a few hot and humid ten mile runs and questioned how I’d be able to get through another 16. Last week, in much favorable weather, I ran 20 miles and finished feeling poppy. Just two months ago, I did my first track workout in ages after nearly convincing myself I am too old and too broken to run fast intervals anymore. Now I’m at the track or doing speedwork twice a week and I’m getting quicker (“fast” is a relative term, but I’m not too pokey!). I’ve been spotty with strength work, but I’ve done more of it than ever before. And while a few of my long runs in this build wound up shorter than planned, I haven’t missed a Sunday.
With my running buddy Noel after our recent 20. We haven’t missed a long run yet!
This quick stroll down Strava Street offered a much-needed retrospective. The progress, while not exactly linear, is evident—even to a self-doubter like me. I haven’t crushed every workout in this marathon build. But I’ve attempted them all and learned from my missteps. My mileage isn’t super-high. But over the past three months, those miles have built a body of work that I’m proud of. Consistency, not perfection, is what gives me the confidence to believe in myself, to silence the chorus of uncertainty. And to say loud and clear that yes: I am doing enough.
And in case you needed to hear it today, so are you.