Thursday, May 31, 2012

If you dream it, you can do it in your dreams

A couple things first:  Check out Hanna's blog!
She interviewed me the other day which is...ridiculously good for my ego.  The last time I was interviewed, I was stuck in an elevator at a school dance.
So thanks, Hanna!

Also, I have a running blog roll on the right of my blog.  Through different iterations of the blog, various blogs I love have fallen on and off of the list.  This is for no reason other than laziness and I certainly don't mean to exclude.  So if you want to be there and you have a running blog and we get along and stuff, email me. 

Main Post

In high school, I raced the 3200m in the District championship.  I didn't remotely belong in that race and I felt very intimidated prior to the meet.  The caliber of runners in this meet were far better than me and I was seeded somewhere in the middle of the slow heat. 

My coach took me and my teammate aside the day before and told us to go out in 6:15 to 6:20 pace.

I thought he was crazy.  My PR at the time was a 12:58 and knocking 20-30 seconds off a 2 miler is not easy stuff.

But the next day, I took his advice, and clicked off each 200 meter lap on pace. 
I ran a 12:39 and my teammate ran somewhere around a 12:25 and even though I didn't score any points in the meet, I felt like I'd we'd both won the damn Olympics. 

It was cool to run such a great race and I know I wouldn't have been so aggressive in my pacing if it weren't for the advice of my coach.  His words gave me the confidence to run faster.

So how much of a part does confidence play in running performance?

Most of the time I think "dream big" type confidence building mantras are dumb.  Detrimental even.  I believe in being pragmatic and keeping expectations in check.

I's just the people who made it against all odds who say these things, right? 


But it's hard to say.  I have no doubt that Olympic and professional caliber athletes have to have a huge amount of confidence and belief in themselves.  (I mean come on...Ryan Hall thinks he is being coached by God.Don't even get me started on Steve Prefontaine!   Kara Goucher has spoken about how a lack of confidence has sabotaged many of her races.  

I wouldn't consider myself to be a particularly confident person.   Just ask a slew of annoyed ex-boyfriends of mine who got tired of providing validation.

I've tried to build my confidence in and outside of running.

I've done race visualization.  I've visualized myself running crazy PRs. I started too fast in races chasing crazy PRs and seldom seen it materialize how I wanted it to. I mean, I will try just about anything that someone says worked for them. 

Having big goals can often mean big disappointment.

But, I have no doubt that people often run to the ability they think they have.  I'm convinced this is why runners (myself included) run almost exactly the same time over and over again even if their fitness is at different levels. 

What works for me is putting in the confidence building workouts before racing- it's hard for me to dream big until I feel physically ready.  I have no doubt that my couch in high school told us to go out fast because he saw us running workouts and knew we had PRs in us, not the other way around.

Speaking of goals, I'm running a 10k this weekend.  I've felt pretty good in the past couple weeks, but I don't want to get my hopes up too high. 

Here's the snapshot of McMillan prediction based on a 5 miler I ran back in November. 


If I even come close to that, I'll be a happy girl.   Of course, I'm already dreaming of some crazy PR but I've gotta accept it's unlikely.  Plus I don't even think this 10k is USATF certified, so I might end up running closer to a 5 miler anyways!

Has confidence played a role in your race performances?   If people dream it can they do it, or is that unrealistic?


  1. I absolutely think if you can dream it you can do it. I think running is 80% head game and 20% physical. Seriously! Love this post Margot and thank you so much for sharing your story on my blog!!! Love reading yours. xoxoxo Hanna

  2. i kinda think that Dream Big nonsense is... nonsense. I think running in general is easier for some people than for others, some people just have natural talent and it doesn't take a ton of effort to bring that out - and those are the people that I see pushing that crap. I mean, obvs they're still working hard, I don't think running is ever EASY for anyone, but the effort they put in garners greater results - and that's cool, everyone has stuff they're really talented at.

    But some people have to work really effing hard and are stoked to be pulling out mid-pack times. It's not really realistic for me to think I'm going to sub-2 at my next half, just because I dream I want to, or just because I work really hard at it. I don't think I work any harder than anyone else, but the results seen by the same efforts, it's just not the same as, y'know, some other people. And, again, that's fine, it is what it is - running might just not be The Thing I'm Good At. I can bake a hell of a cake, maybe that's my talent.

    So more importantly than Dream Big and It Will Be, is don't stop trying to do what you like doing, just because someone else has better results by thinking stuff.

    That was a lot of words. Good luck on the 10K this weekend.

    1. I'm so glad that Heather is able to put my thoughts into sentences that actually make sense :). I totally, totally agree. The dream big mentality is almost a way of setting us up for failure in some situations. I mean, I want to be a pop star, but let's be real. Mama can't sing. Or dance. Or do both at the same time.
      And Heather, will you bake me a cake? Cool, thanks :)
      Good luck this weekend!

    2. Duh. Of COURSE I will. Shark week/birthday extravaganza cake?!

    3. With a bit of an Olympic theme?????

    4. YES. Red, white, and blue tie dye?!

    5. Totally what you said. The running part.

  3. Dream Big, Faster Bunny! While I think it's great to visualize your race & picture what success looks like, I've always had a pretty hefty dose of self-doubt (and oftentimes that doubt is reality). I don't think there's anything wrong with setting bigger & better goals -- I have been trying to employ that myself -- but when self-entitled delusion takes over, that's kind of an issue.

    MacMillan makes me angry... none of those paces ever come out right. (And by that I mean not even close.)

  4. I'm a realist, maybe to a fault, but am also stubborn and above-averagely confident. But when it comes to stepping outside of my comfort zone, or trying things I've never done (running or otherwise) I definitely need a shove. Somebody else's vote of confidence is SO MUCH more effective than my own, so I definitely get what you're saying about your coach.

    I've decided it's an impossible battle (running that is) - you're either going to finish feeling like you could've given more, or you're going to crap out after trying to plow through an ambitious pace. And if not, you should probably be getting paid to do it or teach people how.

    So that's super helpful during race week. GOOD LUCK THIS WEEKEND! :)

  5. I liked this post :)

    I swing between being wildly optimistic about my abilities (like reducing my 5km PB to sub-20 even though it's currently 21:03), to thinking that maybe I'll never get any faster. I'm pretty rubbish at pacing as well (I don't wear a GPS) so if I see a km split that's slow it can ruin my confidence for the rest of the race. I'm actually going to race watch-less when I get back to Aus, and just push as hard as I can - I need to teach my body to hurt more!

  6. I think running is so much more mental than people realize. I was just talking to someone this weekend who did a 100-miler and I was all, "how did you train for that?" and she said she doesn't really train and it's a big mental game. WHAT?!

    I've always found McMillan ambitious, but it's pretty solid so I use it as an ego building, confidence boosting motivator :) Good luck this weekend!

  7. Kudos for actually doing what your coach said to do. I might have looked at him and been like "sure" and then gone out how I had previous planned!

    (had a little chuckle about the coached by God line. I mean, we runners are certainly an odd bunch).

    Oh, and with all the marathon training you have put in this year, I think that 10K pace is easily doable for you. No bull shit.

  8. The confidence and the dreams need to be based on some actual work. I've been taught to trust my training rather than some arbitrary goals that I pull out. If I've put in the work and there is evidence that I can achieve my goal, then yeah, dream big. But if I train for a 4 hour marathon and expect to hit 3 hours, good luck.

  9. I personally think McMillan is high sometimes.

  10. I have a lot to say on this topic...perhaps I should address it in a blog post of my own someday. Hmmm...

    For now, I'll say this...that Henry Ford thing is right. "Some people think they can and some think they can't...and they're both right." Might not be verbatim but it's something like that. Here's the catch... the ol' Wishful Thinking Training Program doesn't get you there. You can Dream Big ( but unless you have the chutzpah and determination and discipline and self-honesty to see what will get you there and then IMPLEMENT a real, honest plan, it isn't going to work. I am proof-positive of this. Suckiest, lame-o "athlete"...detested and written off by coaches who had no faith...I decided I was going to DO it. I thought "I CAN"...and I did. It took me a comparative long time...but I did it. Might not have taken so long if I'd had even one person in my corner earlier on.