No More Expectations
We all have expectations. Expectations about things, people, relationships, jobs… and running. I think it might be time to let them go. At the very least, we need to make these expectations more flexible.
Not that long ago, I was a pretty decent runner, especially at distances between ten and fifty miles. I wasn’t elite by any stretch, but I was competitive. Then, slowly but surely, I wasn’t anymore. I don’t know what happened. I think it has been some combination of issues related to training, physical health and mental health. At first, it wasn’t noticeable. A bad race. A bad couple of races. An okay result here. Another bad race. Before I knew it, I had a list of results (or DNFs) that were not what I wanted and not what I expected. The people who I was used to racing with – who I expected to race with – were finishing minutes or hours ahead of me.
I was in denial. I still went into every race expecting a certain time, a certain finish, a certain feeling. I was let down over and over and over. With that being said, I still maintained expectations. I changed them, adjusted them and lowered them, but I did not let them go. I couldn’t let them go. At the same time, I was maintaining expectations in my personal life, and the results were pretty much the same. Letdown and disappointment. I couldn’t control what other people were doing any more than I could run a 2:20 marathon. The two played off each other, and the hole I was finding myself in kept getting deeper.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t have goals. You SHOULD have goals. You should have things that you want to work toward and achieve. However, I don’t think you should expect anything. There are too many variables, too many things outside of your control and too many opportunities to let yourself down.
We get older. It sucks, but the alternative is worse. We deal with family issues, injury, illness, mental health, jobs, money, sleep, nutrition and on and on and on. Expecting yourself to perform a certain way every time out is a recipe for disaster. Let it go. Set a realistic goal – within reach or just out of reach – and work toward it. Do the best you can, but don’t expect anything. Enjoy the journey. Enjoy the process.
It’s funny, because over time, I have started to hate races. The very reason I switched from road running to trailing running is pretty much gone. With that being said, I still love going for a run. I still love doing a workout. I’m still fast (sometimes). I think by letting expectations go, I’ve been able to maintain my love of the sport. Maybe, in time, I’ll love toeing the line again too.
I realize this probably sounds pretty dark. However, I think it’s just the opposite. It’s not about giving up or quitting or conceding failure (although it still does feel like that sometimes). It’s about enjoying that run out your front door when everything clicks. It’s about the pine needles under your feet and the leaves changing color on that trail that you never get sick of no matter how many times you’ve run it. It’s about the people that you cross paths with that you otherwise never would have except for your mutual love of stumbling over rocks and roots in the woods. I’ll leave you with this line (often misattributed to Shakespeare): Expectation is the root of all heartache.
Former and future ultrarunner