Monday, July 8, 2013

Running lessons: Imperfection might be good enough

After three weeks of European adventures, I feel a lot like my elder cat looks in this picture. I'm disinclined to be overly ambitious, shall we say. Nevertheless, it was back to real life last week and I did my best to return to regular training as well. I have to admit it felt hard. I didn't run as much as I should have while we were traveling and the weather was brutally hot and humid during much of last week so it was challenging to complete even short runs - let alone a longish 8k yesterday.  

Given that it felt so hard, I found myself wondering if it was realistic to plan on running a full marathon at Maritime Race Weekend in September. When I signed up a couple of months ago, I was expecting to run a lot while I was in Europe but, since that didn't happen, I've lost much of the fitness I gained through the spring. With race day just 11 weeks away and a busy summer planned, it's hard to imagine I'll be ready to run a "personal best" time - which was my main reason for signing up in the first place.

After much discussion with Husband yesterday, I decided it would probably be better to run the half marathon instead - particularly since I still hope to run Cape to Cabot in October - but that decision isn't sitting well. Once I set a goal, I find it almost impossible to give it up. It's the perfectionist in me. No matter what the circumstances, it's difficult for me to accept that real life has a way of interfering with the best laid plans - even when I know that no one except me really cares whether I run a full or a half marathon.

That's the trouble, of course. I care. No matter how irrational or self-destructive, I care. Which means it's back to thinking a little more about whether imperfection is good enough in these circumstances. Will I be content to finish my running season without attempting another marathon? And how will I feel if I try but fail to run sub-4:30 again?

I'll keep you posted on what I finally decide. I suspect much will depend on how my runs feel this week and next. If they start to feel a bit easier - or more natural, at least - perhaps I'll still decide to go for it. In the meantime, here are a few quotations I'll be pondering:
“At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.” ― Michael Law
“The grandest seduction of all is the myth that DOING EVERYTHING BETTER gets us where we want to be. It gets us somewhere, certainly, but not anywhere worth being.” ― Shauna NiequistBittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way
“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business.” 
― Michael J. Fox
"Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough - that we should try again." ― Julia Cameron
Happy running and writing friends!


  1. This is something I've struggled with. Once I realized that the real trick is to define acceptably good, you are way further down the road. Acceptably good for me often means having a draft for discussion and further polishing, or a spreadsheet that gives analytical numbers to a certain degree. Some things are in or out of scope. Arranging for perfection at that point is dumb, since it's just a milestone.

    Things like running goals are harder. I know lots of people get hung up on a time, but I think it's more circumstantial than that. So many things affect race performance. At the end of it, the important thing is to be happy with yourself about it. If you know you pushed as hard as possible and going any further was starting to risk injury, then regardless of your time, you should be happy. If you goofed somehow, on pacing or nutrition for example, you might know you could have run a bit faster, so you might not be happy. Then again, some people mess up, and still break their time goal, which is then tainted because they KNEW they could have gone faster. It's all a mind game, and so easy to beat yourself up.

    Now, what were we talking about? Wine. I'm sure it was wine. Why is my glass empty?

    1. Thanks, Keith. "Acceptably good". I like that. Wine too. We really must arrange a time to raise a glass together one days soon. ;-)