Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
When I started running, the goal was to finish. It didn’t matter how long a run or race took me. What mattered was that I covered the distance. As I moved up in distance and ultimately settled on 26.2 as my favorite, it no longer became about completing the distance. The goal became how fast I could run it. Hours upon hours were spent doing something I loved, until one day it felt like a chore.
I was still doing something I loved but I felt this little internal voice inside of me saying, You have to go for this run—OR ELSE. Or else you won’t meet your goal. Or else you will ruin this training cycle. Or else you may let someone down. Or even worse—let yourself down. It turned two things I loved—running and running a fast-for-me pace—into something that felt like a job instead of something I did for the pure joy of it.
For this reason I relaxed and let go of the “or else” part of training. I started by listening only to my body. If I wanted to run, I did. If I wanted to do a workout, I did. If I wanted to run longer than I knew I probably should, I did. If I felt off that day, I ran less than I thought I was supposed to. This approach allowed me to get rid of stress and get back to what I loved in my core—to run. This didn’t mean I ran any less, or that I stopped having goals. Quite the opposite. Since that “or else moment” I hit an all time mileage high of 92 miles, and have taken my marathon time down to the fastest I’ve ever run. Some weeks I run seven days and do doubles. Other weeks I run only two or three times. I run what I am capable of doing or what I want to do, and let go of the stress.
This weekend, as I lined up to run Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon with thousands of runners, I started to feel a little nervous. The OR ELSE voice came back in my head. You better race this OR ELSE you are going to be seen as slow. You better move a little faster OR ELSE people are going to think you had a bad day. You better stop going out with friends and eating dinners out OR ELSE you are never going to improve.
Then a little smile rushed over me. That girl that cares about the OR ELSE is gone. I ran 13.1 miles doing something I absolutely love. It wasn’t the fastest I’ve covered that distance and it wasn’t the slowest, but I covered it with a smile on my face.
In my thirties, I’m realizing the only way to truly feel like you have it all is to embrace your life and what you believe in, not what others think it is or how it should be. I can truly say I have it all.