Confidence is intangible. Difficult to build-up. As challenging to retain. And easy to lose. It is something which can impact on almost everything that we do. But one thing that my running has taught me in recent months, that I need to be more confident based on my achievements, and I think this is something that could apply to many others as well.
Setting a goal and achieving it is one of the biggest confidence boosters anyone can get. The struggle to reach the target and the sense of relief when it is realised should transform itself into a greater belief about your own abilities. But it is not necessarily something that is gained immediately.
“now that might sounds nuts, but it was true”
One of the more bizarre things that I found after I ran my marathon earlier this year was that, when I signed up for a 10k just a few days after I had completed the race, I was suddenly hit with this worry about whether I would be able to achieve the distance. Not running for a week after the marathon race simply amplified my anxiety, so around a week before the 10k itself, I actually went out for a 10k training run just to prove to myself that I could actually do it. Now that might sound nuts, but it is true. Even though 10k (and much further) was a distance that I had run many, many times in my marathon training it took a while for that confidence in my own ability to seep through to me.
I cannot really explain why that has taken so long. Perhaps it was down to how tough I found the marathon distance, without actually recognising what an achievement it is. It took other people to tell me how great I had done before I began to appreciate that I had really, really done it. I had achieved something only a small percentage of people ever do. Now, three months on from attaining that goal and back training for a half marathon in a few weeks’ time I think I have finally gained that confidence in my running ability.
“running the marathon has changed forever how I perceive distance races”
I am not fast. Am never going to be fast. I am faster than some, but slower than many. At almost fifty, going super fast is not my aim. I aim to go as fast as I can. It is me against the distance, nothing else. But running in the marathon has definitely changed forever how I perceive distance races and this has been made clear through my running this week.
Though I have known about Parkrun for a long time, I finally got around to attending my first last weekend. The Aberdeen Parkrun is on a very flat course at the beachfront in the city – good for anyone looking for a Parkrun PB – and so I registered, printed off my barcode and set off among almost three hundred runners participating in this great social event. It was very warm, with quite a headwind for the first half of the run, but I managed to set a personal best for 5k of 26.03. This builds on my 10k pb of 54.00 which I set at that run just after the marathon, and of course, my marathon pb of 4.38.31. It is in reflecting on what I have achieved, and those pbs, that has also boosted my self-belief.
I had always planned that Sunday would be a long run day, even though it ended up being probably the hottest conditions I have ever run in here in Aberdeen, and that was even though I was out of the house just after 8am.
It was a fabulous day and I decided to run at least part of the half marathon course that I will be doing at the end of August. I wanted that confidence boost, even though I was confident I could do it. In the end, I finished up running more than the half marathon distance! I would never have had the confidence to do that before, but after everything else, running for more than two hours no longer phases me. My pace was ok, on target for around two hours ten minutes, even though I was not pushing things at all. However, my running cap afterwards did testify to how hard I had actually been working.
After Sunday, I took a rest day on Monday, but then have run every other day this week. I vary my running. Not just the routes that I run and the distance, but also the effort. On Tuesday I ran hard for four miles, on Wednesday ran easy for three, on Thursday ran hard for four and then on Friday did a balanced run in the morning to get in a further three and a half. Thursday night’s was my favourite, with this fabulous view as I headed out on to the moors as the evening light began to fade.
The half marathon is in five weeks time. I feel I am in a good place. I plan a couple of more runs of up to half marathon distance in the coming weeks, before probably a two-week taper ahead of the race itself. I have a lot of travel between now and the actual race, so that will raise its usual challenges, but one of them will not be confidence. Confidence that I can do it. I will get to the end. I am not arrogant. I respect the distance, but I have belief. I know I can do it. And if you are challenging yourself with your running. Trust in yourself. You can do it too.