The Pressure of Success

I’m getting back into running slowly but surely. I’ve got a big stage race this weekend which will have me running 43 miles on my favorite trails over 3 days. I’m really not well trained and I don’t have the base I used to have as I slacked off SO MUCH since November, but I’ll survive and I’m looking forward to the confidence boost it will give me as I start to ramp up even more for my race in September.

But it’s hard. And you know why it’s hard? Because so many people celebrated my success with me before. So many people cheered me along as I got stronger and ran longer distances and beat PRs and conquered goals that I never even knew existed. Friends and family liked all of my race reports and congratulated me whenever I bragged on another hurdle jumped. I HAD SUCCEEDED and I had done it in front of an audience of people who I loved.

And then I faltered and my running faded and there were no more successes to boast about or goals to check off a list. And just in case no one noticed me missing at long runs and races, or maybe they just thought I was training privately instead of publicly – I put on 27lbs to act as proof that I had stopped training at the level previously. So now when those people who cheered me on see me, there’s no question where I’ve been…I’ve been medicating my depression and anxiety with donuts and beer while everyone pushed forward.

A friend of my recently discussed the pressure of being the “Fitness Story” – she too is struggling to get back what she had lost. You use those accolades, “Look at you! I can’t believe you went from Point A to Point B! You’re amazing!” to power you through continued success, but then you misstep. And the shame you feel over disappointing all of those people (Yes, we all know the disappointment is internal, but it feels external.) makes it really hard to get back up after that first stumble. And the next thing you know, you weigh more than you did when you started the journey back in 2009.

I always tell the story, “After my Dad died I weighed more than I ever had not pregnant…” and I discuss joining boot camp and getting fit which made me want to try running again and so one and so forth and look! I’m 20lbs lighter and I just ran a 100K!

That’s my story. But when I finally started trying to get back on track a few weeks ago,I was 10lbs heaver than I was at the beginning of that story. And while I’m chipping away at that slowly, I’m still heavier than I was when I started getting fit in 2010. And it’s hard to push every day when you’re realizing you’re starting further back than you were the last time. It’s like going to run a marathon – which you’ve run before and it wasn’t easy – only to find out at the start line that it’s actually a 50K.

But that marathon was so hard! And now I have run even further?!

But I trying to push past all of that. I’m trying to not compare this journey to the last one. I’m trying to recognize this as an entirely different journey with entirely different hurdles. I’m trying to look at past successes as proof I can do it, not reminders that I failed. I’m trying to separate the two journeys so that I can celebrate the past successes and then celebrate any future successes without connecting them with some months of missteps.

Because I need to allow myself missteps and not let them dissolve my successes. I have much to be proud of. Hell…the last couple months have been really hard mentally and I’m not out of the woods by any means…So while I’m not crossing finish lines, I’m fighting demons and those are more important battles to win than any medal from any race…no matter what the distance.

I mean, it’s like my brother’s #storypin says, The Journey Is The Reward.