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I had 17 browser tabs open—just as many dIfferent traInIng plans glared back at me from my computer screen, simultaneously begging me and daring me to pick them. I was so on edge that you would have thought one was going to leap out of the screen toward me at any moment, just like that creepy girl in “The Ring.”
The stakes were low. I wasn’t trying to choose the perfect plan to ensure a PR, qualify for Boston or get my “best butt ever.” I simply wanted a training plan that would help me to run another marathon and enjoy it. At the end of my last marathon in December, I found myself broken down, beaten and with zero confidence in my running ability. Despite the 47 marathon finishes to my name, the idea of running more than a few miles seemed not only unpleasant, it seemed impossible. You know how non-runners often quip that they only run when someone is chasing them? I totally got it.
A few months after that December race, I started to get my passion and desire for running back, but my confidence didn’t return. Training plans still scared me and long runs seemed like the seventh ring of hell. I decided to swallow my pride, ignore all notions of my previous running prowess and chose the most basic, novice, gradually building training plan I could find. My short runs started at 2 miles. My first long run was 3 to 4 miles. It was manageable, and it was perfect.
Related: Fighting Through Running Burnout
Even elite runners lose their confidence. Olympian Kara Goucher has publicly struggled with self-doubt. While I don’t think she ever starts from scratch like I did, it comforts me to know that my struggle isn’t completely unique. It’s about going back to wherever you’re comfortable and building from there.
Halfway through my plan, I’ve found that going back to square one was exactly what I needed. I’ve gone from dreading long runs to being cautiously excited about them. Well, let’s be honest: I’m cautiously excited beforehand, dread them during and then feel elated afterward. In a blog about her return to racing post-injury, Goucher writes: “That’s what a comeback is. You have a starting point and you build strength and momentum from there. Stay the course…remain patient. Focus on small steps that are constantly forward.”
With the pressure gone, running doesn’t feel scary anymore. But now I wonder, Am I afraid of training hard and pushing myself? I’m not sure of the answer, but right now, it doesn’t really matter. I only want to run, train and race in ways that leave me feeling good about myself and my body. If that means using a beginner training plan for every marathon, so be it. If that means all my runs are done at an easy pace forever, I’m okay with that. If I never PR again, I’ll be proud to say I’m still running and enjoying it. Who knew a training plan would be such a huge confidence boost?
If You Need A Pick-Me-Up After A Tough Race
- Go back to a route that you love and remember why you love running there.
- Hide your Garmin for a while and run by feel, or use a heart-rate monitor.
- Do a gimmicky-themed event where the focus is on costumes, fun and beer!
- Start back slowly with work-outs and paces you know you can handle.
Danielle Cemprola lives in South Carolina with her husband and Rottweiler. When she’s not running, Danielle blogs at trexrunner.com.