Running and Perfectionism

I don’t like being bad at things.

I’m not sure that makes me exceptionally unique. I would assume most people desire to succeed.

But I do think certain people are okay with not being the greatest at everything they attempt. These people probably have a lot more confidence and are a lot more sure of themselves than I am.

If I know I won’t be good at something, most times I don’t even try. If I do try and find it doesn’t come easily or naturally, then I’ll likely quit.

That’s not to say that I don’t like to challenge myself or that I shy away from obstacles. One of my greatest motivators is when I’m told I can’t do something. But if I do go out there, give it my all, and still fail, my self-esteem will undoubtedly drop and I will be so embarrassed that I won’t want to try again.

This fear of failure has been a bit of a barrier, but is something I’m working to overcome. Even if I’m not the greatest at some things, it doesn’t mean I don’t have other talents. (I have to remind myself of this!)

In addition to just about any organized sport, mathematics and learning new languages, running has always been logged under the category of “Do not try. Will suck badly.”

I danced most of my life. I loved it, I was good at it, and it kept me in shape. Still, I always admired runners.

When I quit dancing in college, I tried to find other ways to be active. Sometimes it was a random fitness class or mildly lifting weights. Most of the time it was half an hour on the elliptical. I did give some feeble attempts to jogging, but it was nothing I stuck with (of course).

Last summer I no longer had access to a gym, and it seemed my only option for exercise was to hit the pavement.


I started slowly and small. An embarrassing one mile a day at a pace of 15 min. It was hard and I felt pathetic. I tried not to tell too many people what I was attempting to do.

I carried my sheepish attempts through the fall and the winter, still not feeling like I was improving much or that I could ever be close to competitive. But I was glad I was at least sticking with it.

Then, a couple months ago on a normal Saturday jog with Steven and our labradoodle Dixie, I decided to time myself. Just for kicks. It turns out I ran a 9 min mile, and I couldn’t believe it. I decided then that maybe I wouldn’t be a complete embarrassment in a 5K.

I downloaded a few running apps on my iphone and started pushing myself to go farther and longer. I signed up for a 5K race, and although I felt that I was indeed getting better, I still hoped I wouldn’t be the biggest loser there. I kept telling Steven that I didn’t pay for a race just to suck. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it well.

Steven and I ran in that race last weekend, and it was the first time I went 3.1 miles without stopping to walk. I never, ever thought in a million years that I would be able to do that. Anyone who knew me in high school and college would probably agree!


I finished in 33:20, which isn’t really the time I was hoping for. But for my first race, I’m choosing to be proud. No, I wasn’t the greatest at the race or in my age group. Not even close. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t accomplish something. I stuck with it, and I plan to keep going even though I’m not great at it.

I’m looking to do two more 5K’s in July and August, and I hope I can shave a few minutes off my time. Some days running is easy. Or at least easier than it used to be. Some days it’s hard, and it feels like I’m back to last summer and 15 min miles. I can’t say I really enjoy the actual act of running. (Does anybody? I mean really?) But I enjoy challenging myself. Even when I’m feeling frustrated, I’m glad I’m out there everyday putting one foot in front of the other.

It’s okay to not be the best. It’s not okay to quit just because you aren’t the best.

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