Run up to Christmas is a fantastically festive, virtual running event. The aim is to clock as many miles as you can between December 1st and Christmas day, and if you hit one of the five milestones, then you get a sparkly Christmas medal. And who doesn’t want one of those? You can enter individually, or as part of a team, and the event supports the charity, mind.
Meanwhile, in my brain…
When you sign up, you select a target between 50 and 250KM. I diligently entered mine at 150KM. Conservatively sensible, like me. Then I set my real target in my head. 250KM. Because if I’m going to do something, then I’m all in. I’ve never been very good at just doing enough to get by. It’s heart and soul, or not at all. I’m also not very good at failing. And I know I’m not alone here, but I tend to flip into self preservation mode and am very measured with how much I’ll lay on the line. Hence the 150KM. It’s my safe goal that I thought was completely achievable.
Just a quick note to say that none of these are traits that I’m particularly proud of. Setting goals you think you can achieve is not only pointless, but also sounds slightly arrogant. My defence is that I’m not giving myself an easy option, because my real goals are always the intrinsic ones. I just keep my ambition to myself so that no-one else knows when I come up short. There’s less pressure that way.
I think it comes from my inner labrador need to please, coupled with an unhealthy dose of imposter syndrome. I’m petrified that someone might realise I’m failing at something I should be able to do. So I fail all the time. But when I do, it’s my own secret expectations, therefore I’m the only one that knows. Stupid, because failing isn’t a bad thing. The rational part of my brain knows that. It’s just a normal part of the learning process. And in terms of run up to Christmas, let’s be honest, who other than me, cares if I run 50 or 250km? But it’s hard to change a habit of a lifetime, isn’t it?
Anyway, the point of all this, is that I have a problem. I’m already failing. But not just my intrinsic goal. There’s a really good chance that I’ll fail my ‘safe’ goal too. And it’s taken me a day or two, but I think I’m actually okay with it.
When is quitting the right decision?
About a month ago I had some pain in my foot. Then it disappeared as quickly as it had come and I’ve been running 30+ miles a week with no problems ever since. 2 days into run up to Christmas, and it’s back with a vengeance. It’s at the base of my 5th metatarsal (outside of your foot) and it’s a constant throbbing even when I haven’t got any weight on my foot. It gets worse with walking and then starts to feel tight up the outside of my shin. I’m reasonably confident it’s bony, and I’m petrified that if I ignore it, it could become a full blown stress fracture. And if that’s the case, I’ll probably wave goodbye to any hopes of running a sub 3.30 in London next year.
So, after a long conversation with myself, which went something like this:
“Maybe it won’t hurt when I run”
“It hurts when you walk, odd’s aren’t good”
“Okay, well even if it does, how bad can it be?”
“Ummm… stress fracture bad”
“Once it’s fractured it’s fractured, as long as I can manage the pain, I can still finish this”
“Yeh, see how that goes for you. You’ll finish and end up in a boot (or worse) for 6 weeks and good luck with trying to fit an entire marathon cycle into the 6 weeks you’ll have left once you’re cleared to run again”
I decided that I needed to get my priorities in order. Somehow, acknowledging that I had an active choice to make, rather than being forced into changing my plan made it far easier to stomach. I could continue, ignore the pain and complete run up to Christmas or pull back on my mileage to give myself a chance of being fit to train properly for London. The choice was mine. I was in control.
The Greater Good
I love the concept of run up to Christmas, and I am devastated that I won’t hit my target, but the point of it was always to have fun. To be part of a community. And importantly to run as many miles AS I COULD through December, whilst raising money for Mind. I’ve already banked 32km. If I’m fit enough to run another 18, then I’ll still get a medal. But crucially, I’ll have done all I can. And under that premise, it isn’t really failing, is it? In the wise words of Albus Dumbledore, sometimes you have to think about ‘the greater good’. London has always been the target, everything else is secondary.
Good luck to everyone taking part in run up to Christmas. It’s great following everyones progress on social media. And whatever the outcome of my own target, I know I’ll be signing up again next year. The best thing about having goals that you haven’t achieved yet, is that it lights a fire and give you something to chase. You don’t always need to move the goal posts, perhaps just adjust the timeframe.