There are a lot of excuses I make for not running and specifically not racing. The last race I ran was The Geezer Chase, a 5K put on by my former high school’s cross country team, and that was probably six or seven years ago. I ran it and came in probably last or close to last, and I don’t remember my time. If they do it again this year, I’ll probably run it. Since it’s been going on for 11 years, I feel like there’s a good possibility it’ll go on, but who knows?
Anyway, I don’t race for a lot of stupid reasons. I guess I don’t race long distances like marathons or ultras because I am not properly trained, which is a valid reason. That could have been solved multiple times by committing to developing base mileage and following a training plan, of course, but I have other excuses for not doing either of those things. I am fully capable of running a 5K right now (by fully capable, I mean it’s clear that I can run for 3.1 miles without stopping. I said running, not racing.) so that’s all excuses.
My major excuses for avoiding races or workouts, broken down into worries (excuses that stem from anxiety) and annoyances (excuses that stem from laziness):
1. I don’t want to barf.
This is one of my top reasons for opting out of running. I have a lifelong fear of barfing. If my stomach feels even a bit off, I’ll call off a run, even though most of it is probably in my head. This isn’t really running-specific, as I’ve been known to avoid doing a lot of things based on a fear that I’ll puke all over the place. I’m coping, whatever.
2. I don’t want to deal with other people barfing.
One of my top reasons for not racing: other people puking. Because of excuse #1.
3. I don’t want to get swept from a course.
This is unlikely during a 5K, but could be a reality during a trail run. To run in the types of races I am more interested in, I need to not only build my endurance, but get faster. While I know that following a training plan will get me there, I need to actually be faster before even starting the training plan.
4. I find the logistics of races intimidating.
Expos. Bib pickups. Cutoffs (see #3). Corrals. Taking a bus to the starting point. Sitting around forever wearing a garbage bag waiting for the race to start with no one to talk to. Getting lost/going way off course (I did this once in a cross-country ski time trial, so it’s not unheard of). Most of this anxiety would be assuaged by signing up for a race with a friend.
5. I don’t want to be stuck somewhere without a nice, private bathroom when I really, really, really, really need one.
I’m not even going to post that meme about running marathons with the picture of the guy who has crapped himself. First of all, unless you are winning or in the contention for the win, there is no need for that. No PR or BQ or whatever other initials you might use is worth defecating yourself. Winning $150000 in the Boston Marathon is worth it. That will never be me, so I do not ever want to get to that point. I don’t even like using port-a-potties. Using one that’s been befouled by someone with runner’s trots while a line of people 9-deep waits outside is a recipe for, you know, “stage fright.”
6. I am embarrassed that I’m slow.
I really am. Trail running has helped a lot, because I’m not dragging ass along busy streets where everyone driving by will see me huffing and puffing up a hill at a snail’s pace, or even *gasp* taking a walk break. I don’t like being judged by other runners, or feeling like I am in their way. I have to remind myself I have just as much right to the trails/paths/sidewalks as they do, and all I have to do is step aside and they can prance along like a gazelle at twice my pace with zero effort and leave me eating their dust. I also avoid running on very busy paths (like the Lakewalk in the summer, or the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis) so that I’m not encountering a lot of running/walking/biking/stroller terrorist traffic.
1. I don’t like getting up super early.
This keeps me from getting runs in before work/school, and also from racing. I love sleeping and I always stay up late. I also feel kind of gross in the mornings. I need to get over this, not just for running, but to become a more productive member of society.
2. I am too slow to get in a decent workout in the time I have.
It’s a vicious cycle, right? I’m too slow, so I should just not even bother? I can usually overcome this one but sometimes I feel like it’s just not worth it to devote nearly half an hour to slogging through two pathetic miles.
3. The treadmill sucks.
Notice that I don’t have “It’s too cold/hot/rainy/etc out” on here. That’s because I own a treadmill, so any weather-related excuse for not running really boils down to hating the treadmill. I am even slower on the treadmill than I am on pavement. I really just have to force myself to get on it and find a way to make it a bit interesting and worthwhile. Even if that means getting on it and walking for 30 minutes. It’s better than nothing.
I thought there would be more annoyances. There probably are, but again, I can overcome most annoyances. The worries require real work.
I don’t worry that people are judging my body when I am running. I mean, I’m sure people are, I run in tank tops and compression capris/leggings, so I’m letting it all hang out. I am a million times more worried about what people will think of my pace than about what people think of my body. I know that can be a major hangup for people of all shapes and sizes, so I’m grateful I don’t have that concern to add on top of all the other things I’ve babbled on about, and I hope I never get into that mindset. The biggest embarrassment I have about my body while working out is how incredibly red my face gets at the slightest exertion, but that’s never been a barrier to working out.
There are excuses for not running that I find acceptable. Others might not, but I think it’s important to have limits.
1. Any kind of illness.
I know some people will run with a cold, but I will not. My “colds” frequently develop into something more severe (sinus infection, bronchitis, or just overall crappiness), so I will choose rest every single time.
2. Pain I shouldn’t have.
Muscular pain is normal. My hips and lower back being cranky is normal. Anything else and I’m resting. I’m not elite, I have no physical therapist or trainer advising me, I am not going to take chances.
3. Mental or physical exhaustion.
I didn’t run for most of December, even though I hoped to, because I was feeling overwhelmed by schoolwork. An hour dedicated to running meant an hour I wasn’t studying or working on a project, and also meant I was more tired when I sat down to study. I don’t regret doing it even though it set back my fitness and I probably gained a few pounds. There are times when running is a good way to recharge, but not when I literally felt guilty about running because I wasn’t doing my homework.
4. Friends, family, and hockey.
I’m not going to miss a hockey game for a long run. I did once go to a UMD women’s game directly after a 5 mile run and I felt kind of crappy and sick for the first part of the game, but I didn’t miss the game. I’m not going to ditch out on friends or family who are in town because I need to put in a 20 miler. (Shorter runs are ok). I do hope someday I’m running some fancy race and I’ve got a huge group of people cheering me on (red face and all!), but some dumb training run can wait.
This was a very long-winded way of pointing out the importance of mental toughness. Owning up to fears and excuses gives me a way to address and overcome them, or at least shove them aside and keep on going. Expressing my priorities helps me make better decisions. Running is more important than being lazy. Running is not more important than hockey. Getting a good grade is more important than running. Sleeping super late is not more important than running but I often let it be.
This was also a very long-winded way of saying many of my running-related worries and annoyances will be alleviated by improvement, so there’s hope!