Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Running Bad ≠ Bad Runner

The number one question I get asked is: Have you been to the Olympics?!
What they are actually asking is, “How good are you, really? Professional huh?”

I sometimes say, “I was in the Olympic…(trials)” Just so they can understand that I compete on that level. But that’s when I am on an airplane and want no words, just sleep.

Other times I go into the whole spiel:
“Well. They determine the Olympic team by having a race a month before the Olympics. Top 3 go. Except this is way overly simplified, and there are 100 other stipulations that go along with this—One time a coin toss was involved.”

And they say, “Oh! What place were you?!”
And I say, “5th by less than an arms reach to 3rd” as I choke back some tears and feel my heart shatter.

Then I get the “Oh my gosh! Were you heart broken!?”
I immediately think: Look lady, I just spent the better half of my life preparing for those 2 minutes. Of course I was heart broken. 

But this got me to thinking. Why does not racing how you want hurt so bad?
How do I describe this kind of pain to a non-runner?

As a professional runner, your life is consumed by it. You live it, breath it, want it. It is a 24/7 job. It is a kick ass job, mind you, but it is still constant. It becomes a part of your identity. I am Phoebe, a professional runner.

The problem is when you make results synonymous with your self worth. Or when you can’t separate the job from the being. I like to think I have a great perspective on this, and I still struggle with it sometimes.

So here’s what running bad makes you feel like. I know that it is ridiculous to feel this way. It’s kind of like when you haven’t eaten in 4 hours and you stub your toe and you immediately get mad at the table that made you stub your toe? And then you realize that being angry at the table is stupid? It’s like that. This is the initial feeling of running bad before you talk yourself back into reality.

Point blank: running shitty makes you feel like a shitty person. In most things in life, the harder you try and the more you work, the better the result. Running sometimes works like this and other times it doesn’t. (Luckily these bad times are just sometimes, and if you wait long enough, and keep grinding, it eventually flips to your favor.)

When it is not going your way, you feel like it’s your fault. You feel guilty that you aren’t your best. You feel like you are lazy. Or not trying hard enough. And you have quantifiable data to show exactly how lazy you are. Right now I’m 4 seconds lazy because I am 4 seconds off where I want to be. It’s like the results are reflective of your intrinsic being or something. And that a bad result is going to expose your secret personality flaws.

You feel embarrassed. Because you are obsessing about those 4 seconds that prove to yourself that you are lazy, you assume that the entire running world is also coming to that conclusion. Everyone on Earth who cares about track now knows that you must be lazy. (Realistically though, no one is even noticing.)

You feel the need to justify to yourself and others why you are running slow. You're mind has completely glitched. 

You feel like you aren’t worthy of your sponsor. What are they paying you for? To not win? I don’t think so.

If you do happen to feel like this, here is my advice:
1.     Remember: IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL. It’s just running.
2.     Expectations (especially your own)--Throw them away. They are only holding you back.
3.     Have regular people (not professional runners) as friends (DON’T WORRY, I have some slow friends you can borrow if you need some)
4.     Every runner has felt this way. If they say they haven’t, they are probably lying. Or haven’t had a set back. Yet.
5.     Don’t get discouraged. If you keep working, be patient, and stay committed to improvement, you will get there. The laws of probability say so.
6.     Your feelings are justified. Failure hurts, but it makes success oh so sweet.


  1. "Every runner has felt this way." - Yes indeed. I enjoy reading. Keep working, try not to worry and those 4 seconds disappear.

  2. Amateur baseball games are fun too. I think you are right about baseball. You forgot to mention the municipal sponsorship that builds new stadiums even when old stadiums were great and nostalgic. Everyone played baseball although some people do get injured in baseball too. It's not all roses. Parents invest a lot in amateur baseball ad softball also. Here in PA softball is more popular than baseball. for track, usatf.tv is very new. Also in baseball there are 160 games in the season. If you hit once in every 4 at-bats you are a superstar. That's potentially one hit every 24 pitches. And you're star.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.