Friday, March 17, 2006


Today I ran 10k in under 50 minutes. I'm quickly coming to realise that my body is capable of more than I ever thought possible. About a month ago I was impressed to get under 55 minutes, and today I've taken another 5 minutes off that time. Every time I run 10k at the moment I seem to knock minutes off my previous best. When I do an interval run I find myself pushing faster and faster on those fast spells to make myself work harder, and realise that I'm capable of speeds I only dreamed of before. I don't think it's that my training has been fantastic over the past month (in fact I've been trying to take it easier - unless it's the rest that's doing the trick), but instead I think that my legs had it in them all along and I never dared believe it. I'm actually now trying to find out what I am capable of rather than sticking with what I know.

All my life I've been scared of failure. I've always been the achiever, the one who passes all the exams with flying colours, who gets a good career with glowing appraisals. Academically and professionally at least I don't really know what it's like to fail. And I started avoiding doing things where I might fail. If I could put down my 10 years of inactivity from about 16 to 26 to one reason (and it was more complex, but this one features heavily), it's because I assumed that I wouldn't be able to do it. I knew I enjoyed it, but I thought that my size would stop me ever achieving anything, and I was scared of looking a fool. When I was told I needed to be a bit fitter to play rugby in university my response was to give up rugby rather than failing to meet the standards they were asking for. I assumed I'd fail so I never tried.

I'm not much of a risk taker. I prefer to sit in the comfort zone, doing things that I know I can do. Reaching for the stars and coming back with empty hands doesn't tend to appeal to me, I fear humiliation and ridicule. For a long time I didn't tell anyone that I was exercising and losing weight because I didn't want it to come back to haunt me if or when I ran out of steam. The only way that I could challenge myself to do something I might not succeed at was by keeping it secret. Then my shame at failing would be mine, and mine alone. (And it still happens, although most people who know me online know about the marathon plan, I've not actually admitted it to most of my family, real life friends or colleagues).

It struck me when I was running today that I really don't know what I'm capable of. For a long time I assumed I couldn't run a 50 minute 10k, just because it sounded fast. (OK, because it is fast) I'd never tried because I didn't think I could do it. I started to wonder whether trying and failing was that bad after all. Because if you try and fail you at least know where that boundary is, and you know that you've pushed yourself right to it. You know where to find it if you want to push it back. You can sometimes learn more from your mistakes than your successes. Maybe in the process of finding that boundary you'll realise that what seemed impossible is actually not that bad at all, and that you should be setting your sights higher.

I think there's some merit in the idea of living a bit more dangerously from time to time, taking risks and not being afraid to really test myself to the limit. Meanwhile, I hope that my legs recover in time for my 5 mile race on Sunday! For the first time in a while, they really feel like they've had a challenging workout. Tomorrow is going to be a rest day, so it should be fine as the race is only short.


I have another dilemma at the moment. I'm desperate to be able to update my weight to 160. At the moment it's hovering at 160.5, and I'm confident that by Monday (which has become my normal weigh in day) with a good weekend of eating and running planned I'll have hit the magic number. The only problem is that I can't weigh in on Monday because of the combination of an early meeting in Sheffield and my recovery day from the 5 mile race. I know that waiting til Tuesday is only one day, and that one day is nothing in the context of a maintenance journey I need to be on for life. But I really want to update that ticker on Monday. I'm trying to resist the thought of popping into the gym when I get back up to Leeds solely to weigh in, but it's an appealing thought. Meanwhile, I'm refusing to go for my monthly printed out weigh in at Boots because I want to wait until I know that it will show 160. Somehow I suspect I'm being too obsessive (but then this is nothing compared to my mental state two months ago when I was trying to get to 168 and a normal BMI!).


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