I’m someone who has had perfectionist traits for as long as I can remember. Now don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with aiming high, but for me these traits often see me getting in my head and being particularly hard on myself. Even writing this blog has taken me several attempts and rewrites!
7 years ago I decided I wanted to run a Marathon and so I joined a running club to help me achieve my goal. Joining a club truly was one of the best things I ever did, running has become so much more for me and through it I’ve met some of the key people in my life.
A great thing of being part of a club was access to a training plan and coaching, and through focused sessions, my training went from steady runs to somehow running sub 7 minute miles around a track. I got fitter, I got faster. I achieved times I’d never imagined and it felt great smashing pb’s.
In 2015 I ran my first marathon, the Manchester marathon. I’d trained hard but had really enjoyed the process and I was excited to see what I could do. I remember our coach handing out pacing bands and he gave me a 3:45, I was feeling good, I accepted the challenge and thought I’ll show you. I had a great run and ran what I saw as I a perfect negative split marathon, in a way better than expected time of 3 hours 27 minutes. I felt epic and I’d got a good for age time for London. I genuinely was pleased, however as I'm sure many other runners can relate, there was still that niggling feeling wondering if I might have done better.
Two years later I ran the London marathon (I’d deferred it due to an Achilles issue). It was an extremely hot year and I was nervous. I’d worked myself up all weekend and had the added pressure of friends and family who had come to support me. The beauty of Manchester was it was my first marathon, there was little pressure, whatever I did would be a personal best, now there was something to compare it too.
Despite telling myself that it didn’t matter and the main thing was to relax and enjoy it, deep down I was putting pressure on myself to do well. 'Doing well' being a very focused target I'd set on myself. The first half went to plan, I’d ended up running most of it with a friend but she was running so much stronger than me that I let her go. Obviously I was happy for her, but mentally this got to me, the critical voice in my head telling me I wasn’t good enough. I could feel the target times slipping away and I kept thinking of everyones disappointment in me. Another friend passed me later on and offered to run with me, but rather than accept the help, that voice in my head told me that 'I'd be ruining her race as well', by this point I'd conceded I'd failed. I had a panic attack around mile 18 and had never felt so alone, despite being surrounded but thousands of people. The last miles were probably the hardest miles I’ve ever run and when I crossed the finish line I was just so glad it was over.
I'd took me a long time to talk about my London marathon, mainly because I was so disappointed with my performance and frustrated at myself, and even now I still feel a pang of guilt for not enjoying what is seen as such a prestigious event. The problem with setting high expectations, is we often beat ourselves up for not achieving our goals, however I know there are a lot of positives I can take:
- I completed a marathon.
- I kept going when I wanted to give up at so many points.
- I had months of good training under my belt
- I crossed the line injury free
- I ran what I know should be valued as a great time (I completed it in 3 hours 48mins).
Perfectionism effects other areas of my life and I have been undertaking forms of therapy. Through this I am practicing self-compassion and one of the things that stands out the most for me is what would I say in the same situation to a friend. This resonates with me as not only would I go above and beyond to support my friends but I am also a coach, and I know my advice to others more than often contradicts the advice I follow myself.
Advice I know I'd say to others!
- Have a A, a B and a C plan - make these realistic, include worst case to be prepared.
- So it didn't go to plan, what can we learn? - Note them down, keep a running journal, reflect and look back at it!
- Change the focus - focus on the now not the what if’s. Instead of focusing on the outcome, enjoy the process.
- Go for it, what’s the worst that’s going to happen? The constant drive to achieve can actually mean you achieve less.
I am trying, one of my favourite races was the ASICS 10km last year, which I set out to run with a target time of sub 45 minutes but a B plan of no pressure and just to enjoy it!!! Which I did (I finished in just under 46 minutes!).
Architect from Manchester
Age group: 35-40
Club: Chorlton Runners