We all know the saying: practice makes perfect. But what we often forget is the other part that’s inherent in this statement – that practice itself ISN’T perfect. And yet we expect it to be.
As runners, when we look at our training plan at the start of a training cycle, we expect to run every mile, hit every pace dead on, nail all our intervals. But in reality, this is never the case. And that’s OK!
If you’ve ever come back from a training run or a race, disappointed in yourself because you didn’t hit the pace you wanted to in every single interval or split, if you focus on the negatives more than the positives and if things not going exactly how you wanted stops you enjoying your running and gaining satisfaction from it, you might have a touch of the perfectionism about you. And that’s not a good thing.
This is from an article in Scientific America: “Contrary to the name, most perfectionists aren’t driven by the pursuit of perfection, they’re driven by the avoidance of failure. Being a perfectionist isn’t about being perfect, it’s about never being good enough.”
Runners are humans made of blood and bone and muscle. We’re not robots and we can’t expect to perform as robots. We have hectic, complicated lives and no two weeks are the same.
We’re not perfect, we make mistakes, but you know what? That’s how we learn.
Training shouldn’t be perfect. It’s a time when you experiment, push yourself, find where your strengths lay, see where your weaknesses are, find what works for you and what you need to change. It’s a time to make mistakes, so you can learn and improve.
Seeing only the negatives in your performances and feeling that you’re ‘not good enough’ is not only going to suck all the enjoyment from running for you, there’s a risk that it’s going to make you give up on your goal altogether.
It’s something I see in runners from beginners to seasoned marathon runners. I can ask a beginner to run for 8 minutes without stopping. They perhaps manage 7 minutes and instead of seeing the improvement on last week where they maybe ran 5 minutes, all they focus on is that 1 minute they didn’t quite manage. And it makes them feel they’ll never be able to run, and they want to give up, despite having just proved they can do it for 7 minutes.
So try your best, but be prepared to fail. Embrace failure. To quote Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”