I don’t know what has happened exactly, but I’ve hit a real running sweet spot lately. This has happened to me before, and it always feels incredible. It accompanies my establishing a consistent schedule and getting to the point where my body is craving a run, and I’m giving it what it’s asking for. Not every run is great, but they all feel good (I know that seems contradictory, but I’m not sure how else to describe it), and I look forward to the next one on the schedule.
The problem is that when this happens, I get kind of scared. Oddly enough, I experienced this same feeling last year at around the same time. I was setting PRs in the races I was running, I was getting faster consistently, and I was feeling really good. And then I just stopped running. See?
72 miles in March, 3 miles in April, 0 miles in May. What the hell happened? Why did I just stop running when things were going so well? It seems counterintuitive, right? I mean, you’d think that I’d stop running because I wasn’t enjoying it.
I’m actually pretty sure I know what went wrong: fear of success. I posted a quote last night from Maryanne Williamson that, in my opinion, sums up this phenomenon really well. As she says, “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” It can be terrifying when things start going well, especially when you are used to tearing yourself down at the drop of a hat, as I tend to do. Success means change; stepping outside of patterns that, while they may not be positive or pleasurable, are ingrained and comfortable; and confronting the unknown. It also means that you might, at some point, have to face the possibility of failure.
While poking around on the internet, I found an article from Psychology Today on the fear of success. It’s a short article, but it’s pretty interesting, and has a list of questions to ask yourself if you feel you’re resisting change because you’re afraid of succeeding. The one that I think is probably most important, and the one that sticks with me the most, is “What am I afraid of losing if I succeed?” Our society is so success-driven that it is normal for us to assume that success is what everyone wants. But like many things, the desire to succeed is much more complicated.
In my case, success is sort of like an unattainable goal. It’s a carrot that I dangle in front of myself in order to push harder, but of course no matter what I do, I know deep down that I will never get the carrot. Doing so would really contradict a lot of the ways in which I see myself: a slower runner, someone who will never exceed a certain level or performance, mediocre, unremarkable (these are just ways I think about myself with regard to running). If I succeed, I have to reconsider the identity I’ve assigned myself, which is scarier and a whole lot harder to me than continuing in this pattern of negative self-talk.
But here’s the thing! I don’t want this year’s training graph to look like last year’s. I want April’s mileage to be higher than March’s, and May’s to be higher than April’s. I want to succeed, challenge the ideas I have about myself, and change the definition I have of Emilie. I want to work hard to keep up this forward momentum, so that a month from now, or a year from now, I can look back and recognize how much richer and more fulfilling my life became when I decided to embrace success, rather than hide from it.
Embrace:Me 30-day challenge, day 11: Today was a good day in terms of doing nice things for myself. I had a delicious snack of greek yogurt with a sliced kiwi, recognized that I didn’t need to do one more hill repeat since I had done well on the others, spent some nice time with Nat, and ate (and enjoyed) cream puffs without feeling guilty. But I think the nicest thing has been recognizing this pattern of turning away from success, and deciding to do something about it. I really think that’s probably one of the best things I can do for myself at this point.