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The Unspoken Rules of Being a Badass: A Runner's Guide

The Voices In My Head

Out Damn Negative Thoughts!

I’ve gotten into a very bad habit the past 6 months. I’ve become my own worst critic and I can’t seem to stop it.

When things go bad in a race, I start telling myself how slow I am, how much I suck, how I’m not trying hard enough, not working hard enough, giving up too easily.

When I don’t hit my times in the planned work outs that my coach set up for me, I find myself saying things like “He’s got to be frustrated with me.” Or “I bet he’ll be disappointed again.” Or “Maybe a coach is a waste of time.”

And when a friend teases me about running a 4 hour half marathon, I think “He knows me/my running better than most so I must really suck.”

I know I’m only making things worse. That it’s me who’s disappointed and frustrated (and embarrassed) and not my coach or my friends. I know that I’m not helping myself but…how do I stop it?

I’ve been in a funk ever since the DNF at Death Valley Trail Marathon. I haven’t raced well this year. I’ve been slow as molasses and my confidence is shattered. I doubt I can hit my workouts and I doubt I can keep a certain pace in a race and I think it causes me to live up…er, live down…to my expectations.

I’m tired of it. I want my confidence back. I want to be fast and feel fast.

I know that fast is relative and I know I’m not a 2:30 marathoner but I feel I have a sub 4 marathon in me. Actually, I don’t know what I’m capable of but I dream of going sub 3:55 and qualifying for Boston. I want to go sub 24 in a 5K and sub 50 in a 10K and 1:50 in a half. Or faster.

But to do that, I first have to quit telling myself I can’t.

On Saturday, I ran my 5th 5K. My 5K PR is 24:59 (set in 2011) but I honestly thought I would be lucky if I broke 30 minutes for the one on Saturday. I felt that 27 minutes would be a dream goal but I shouldn’t be disappointed if I didn’t hit it. I thought there was an outside chance of hitting 27 minutes. Maybe.

Then I’m not sure what happened but I got mad at myself. The night before the race I started thinking about what it would take to PR and I started telling myself that I could do it. On race morning as I warmed up I lectured myself over and over again to try. To not give up. To run as hard as I could and try to PR. That it wasn’t impossible. I could do it. But only if I tried. I started the race…determined.

I ran hard.

I finished the race in 25:15.

So…no PR but I ran so hard I thought I was going to puke at the end. I never told myself I couldn’t do it while I was running. I talked myself out of giving up and settling for the slower 27 min goal from earlier. I was happy with my effort. I had run it with my heart instead of my head and because of that, I got a surprise when the times were posted…3rd in my age group! Woo! This is my 5K medal on the left and my AG medal on the right:

🙂 If this were a Hollywood movie, that would be the end…the happy runner girl running off into the sunset with a new mind and a new determination to make her goals happen.

Well, this ain’t Hollywood….

On Sunday, I ran the Rock n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon (my 24th half marathon) and I was back to my old ways. If you look at the McMillan pace calc based on my 5K time…

…I should be able to go sub 2 for the half. My PR for the half is 1:57:26 (also set in 2011) but I was telling myself to shoot for 2:10 and to be happy with 2:15. And when things went south during the race (I lost 6 minutes to hit the port-a-potty and then fell before mile 10), I started in with the negative talk: I suck, I should just stop racing, I shouldn’t have signed up for that marathon at the end of June because it might take me 5 or more hours to finish and my friends will have to wait for me. What was I thinking? I was frustrated and embarrassed again and beating myself up over it.


Bad habits are hard to break. I have GOT to figure out how to break this one permanently before I give up trying all together. I just don’t know how right now.

Any suggestions? How do you deal with the negative voices?



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This post was written by:

- who has written 717 posts on Run It Fast®.

Lisa (RIF Club Member #5) has completed 27 half marathons, 13 marathons, 5 50Ks, 2 12 Hour races, and 1 100K. Her favorite races to date are the Disneyland Half Marathon, the Leading Ladies Marathon, the Bataan Memorial Death March, and the Jackson Jackass 50K. You can follow her on Twitter @runlikeacoyote

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One Response to “The Voices In My Head”

  1. Dennis says:

    First: You Rock!
    Second: You Rock!!
    Third: You Rock!!!

    Seriously, I am the last person to offer advice here. I am just as hard on myself and push probably too much (thus my having to take 10 days off from running/cycling…)

    For me, I think the struggle is striking the balance between my capabilities and desires and making sure the resulting goals are realistic and achievable…or at least plausible. Sure setting stretch goals are great and necessary, but even those need to be realistic. Aiming for something that is completely out of reach is a sure way to be bummed…discouraged…and want to quit.

    The voices that communicate crap (from within our heads or from others) are noise and just that: crap. But still, it’s tough to push it back, ignore, or blow off. That probably will never get easier for any of us – but knowing our capabilities and setting realistic goals will certainly combat or at least muffle the voices!

    Don’t quit…press on…we got your back!

    Oh, and fourth: YOU ROCK!!!!


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