Running isn’t really known as a competitive sport, and yet most of the Runners I know are all extremely competitive people, myself included. So, who are we all competing against?
Well, if you look at how hard we work to achieve PB’s and how we love to make each challenge bigger and harder than the last, the answer is pretty clear:
Yup, we continuously strive to compete with (and completely outdo) ourselves. And nothing has made me realise this more than Aubrey – the voice in my head who tells me to run.
Aubrey popped up around the time I started Marathon Training. She’d always been there, lingering around on my runs in the back of my head, making suggestions, but she’d been quiet enough for me to ignore whilst I thought about more important things like what shall I have for dinner tonight? But when I began training for my first marathon late last year, it’s like someone had given her a megaphone and an air horn! Suddenly Aubrey was impossible to shut out.
After talking to a few other runners and reading a few running blogs, apparently I’m not the only one who has a voice in her head telling her to run. It seems loads of us are being pushed by these inner runners.
But I can’t tell if these inner voices are our cheerleader’s or are our worst enemies.
Sometimes when I lie there in bed thinking Screw it! I can’t be arsed to run today, Aubrey is the one who pipes up and encourages me to get out there and tread that pavement.
“Of course you can!” she’ll shriek excitedly “You just need a decent breakfast and a good stretch and you’ll be ready to smash it!” I ponder over the idea and she always knows how to give me that little positive push “You’ll feel so much better for doing it.” And she is right (most of the time) and I thank her for that.
Other times, when I’m at 9.89 of a 10 mile run, sweating, aching and dehydrating, desperate to finish, she’ll pop up and suggest “So, we’re doing one extra mile, right?” And I feel like I’m 10 years old again, wanting to impress that popular girl even though I don’t want to do the things that will impress her. I always feel like I can’t say no to one of Aubrey’s suggestions. As I said in my February Training Diary, whatever goal I set out to do, Aubrey will always challenge it!
And then there are the days Aubrey can be quite harsh. Like when I aimed to do a 22 mile run, but could only manage 20. 20 miles is the furthest, longest run I had ever done, it was a huge achievement, and yet as I patted myself on the back, I could feel Aubrey shaking her head. You just ran 20 miles. 20 bloody miles, I congratulated myself (and trust me they were literally bloody miles) but as I did I could still here Aubrey sulking, holding up her megaphone “20 isn’t 22 though, is it? 22 was the plan” acting like that annoying unsatisfied Parent who only ever criticises their child and never gives in to praise.
Fortunately, as time and training has gone on, I’ve been slowly learning how to work with Aubrey. Training for a marathon is so much more than just a physical challenge, and learning how to control the volume on Aubrey and not allow her to take over, has been half of the challenge.
The first lesson I learnt (after nearly collapsing on a run) is that you have to Be Realistic. Your inner voice may be telling you to add on an extra three miles, but before you go galloping off trying to do as they say, stop and think. Realistically can you do it? Even if you physically can, should you be doing it? Were you prepared to run the extra six? Do you have the energy or the fuel? Basically, be realistic, don’t do anything that is going harm you or cause you injury, just to prove something to yourself.
Secondly I learnt to set what I like to call Window Targets i.e. instead of planning to run 10 miles, I would aim for 8 – 12. That way if I hit 12, I’ve rose to Aubrey’s challenge, if I only hit 8 I’ve still hit my target and anywhere in between is still a fantastic job (and so Aubrey can’t technically get mad).
Aubrey has been a pain in my backside throughout my training and continues to be, BUT she has also been so encouraging and determined; she has pushed me to work hard and smash targets that once seemed impossible. I owe her a lot.
And that’s when I remind myself that Aubrey is me.
It’s me that is being harsh and self-critical. It’s me adding the extra miles on. It’s me telling myself to get out of bed and run. It’s all me!
If you have an inner runner voice, then remind yourself of this and you will quickly realise that you are in control, you make the decisions and that your only competition is YOU.
You can be your own worst enemy or you can be your own best friend – what do you choose?
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