Last weekend, I ran a PR (personal record) in the 10k. I beat my previous best time, which was from 2013, by just over three minutes. I also placed third in my age group, which I definitely wasn’t expecting. After seeing my results, I was really happy and proud of myself. I had a near perfect race, from start to finish. I kept my pace fairly consistent, in spite of the challenging hills in the last mile. Even though I was starting to get tired toward the end, I never hit a wall. I felt as though I could’ve run another two or three miles at that pace. It was an amazing feeling and I was on cloud nine. I then went on to run another 5k shortly after, as part of a 15k challenge. I felt strong throughout the 5k and ran faster than I had expected to after having just PR’d the 10k. Not only did I run strong, PR, and place in my age group, but I also won a $50 gift card as a raffle prize. It was an amazing day and an amazing race.
It wasn’t long though before those pesky thoughts of self-doubt and deprecation slowly began to swirl around in my mind. The only reason I ran so fast today was because of the much cooler weather. A lot of the race was either flat or downhill, so of course I was able to run fast! It was a small race, so no wonder I placed in my age group! There was hardly anyone in my age group to begin with. I could never run that fast on a warm day or on a more challenging course. I would never have placed in my age group if more people had run the race.
The negative thoughts only continued on when I got home and began to look at my race data. If I had only run the first mile a little faster, my average pace would’ve been a little faster. Ugh, why did I slow down a little bit in the last mile? If I had run it faster, my average pace would’ve been faster. Why didn’t I run each mile a little faster? I could’ve probably taken 5-10 seconds off of each mile without even feeling it. I should’ve taken more advantage of the cool weather and pushed myself even harder.
I had a near-perfect race that morning, but I still managed to pick it apart and tell myself that it wasn’t good enough. I ran stronger and faster that day than I typically ever do in training. I ran that 10k faster than I ever thought I could run a 10k. Who cares if it was cooler outside? Sure, the cooler weather helped a little bit, but I wouldn’t have been able to run that fast at all if I hadn’t been busting my ass in training. Granted the first half or so had a lot of downhills, but the last mile was practically all uphill. I still managed to push my pace in the last mile, uphill, even though I was already getting tired, and finish strong. Obviously if more people had run the race, I would’ve had a smaller chance of placing in my age group, but I can only count the people who were there that day. And on that day, of all the women aged 30-34, I was the third fastest one, regardless of how many were in the group. You can only race against the people who show up that day.
Picking apart my mile splits and wondering if I could’ve run each mile just a little bit faster is ridiculous. I know I pushed myself. I know I ran as fast as I could without full-on sprinting. I know that I ran consistently and that I never pulled back, even when it felt hard. Does it really matter if I ran each mile 5 seconds faster? I mean, we’re talking about 5 seconds here. That’s absurd. Right? I know it is and I knew it was then, but I couldn’t help myself.
The truth is that I do this in pretty much all aspects of my life. I had a near-perfect race, but it still wasn’t good enough. No matter how well I do something, I always wonder if I could’ve done it better. No matter what my results are, I question why they weren’t as good as someone else’s. Now, we all know that comparison is the thief of joy, but does that ever really stop us from comparing ourselves to others? No. No, it doesn’t. Why isn’t near-perfect good enough? Why isn’t anything ever good enough?
I think that most women have a tendency to do this. Whether it’s in regards to running, working, motherhood, or whatever, most women tend to pick apart their performance and compare it to others. Why do we insist on doing this to ourselves? It’s one thing to be a perfectionist and to always strive to do and be better, but why don’t we allow ourselves to celebrate our accomplishments? Why are we so quick to start critiquing ourselves and preparing for the next challenge? Why can’t we just enjoy the moment for what it was and give ourselves credit for all of our hard work?
I was probably about three-quarters of the way to a full-blown self-deprecating pity party when I caught myself. Stop! Stop it right now! You got a freakin PR in the 10k because you earned that shit! You’ve been pushing yourself in training and it paid off. Give yourself some credit! I decided to stop the train to negative town and get off immediately. I should have been appreciating my body for all its hard work and basking in the glory that is a PR. All runners know that they don’t come around all that often.
The funny thing is that I’ve actually been trying to be nicer to myself recently and I think that played a huge part in my race that day. I’m a naturally insecure person. I tend to tell myself that I should slow down, even when I’m not tired, because there’s no way that I can keep a fast pace for that long. Recently, I’ve been trying to cheer myself on instead of slow myself down. I’ve been trying to build myself up rather than beat myself up. My race results were proof that it’s working. But as soon as I accomplished my goal, I immediately started tearing it apart. I’m just glad I caught myself in time.
Building confidence and a strong, positive mindset takes a lot of time and practice. Being good enough is a process. We’re bound to slip up once in a while. As long as we’re able to catch ourselves before we get too deep into the hole, then it’s still a part of the learning process. We should focus on progress, not perfection, in all aspects of life. I know that I’ve come a long way, even if I still have a long way to go. Maybe perfect will never be good enough, but progress is really where it’s at. And progress should always be good enough.