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The San Francisco Half Marathon: “I am a Failure”

Just about a month ago, I registered to run the San Francisco Half Marathon as a newbie without running experience. Then, in my second week of training, I overdid myself and injured my knees. But a week later, I picked up my training again.

Half Marathon Training - Failure

I am ready for this — bring it on!

I was having a drink with my Addapp coworkers after work when I felt a sudden energy rush. It might have been the cocktail I was sipping, but I told them, “I can’t stay. I have to go for another run. I feel like this is a good time.” And I left. I biked home and quickly changed into my running gear to capitalize on the energy rush. It was foggy outside, and the cold could only help me have a better run.

Before lifting off, full of enthusiasm

Before heading out, I was full of enthusiasm.

I hate this.

It was the second time I had gone running since being injured. I started out slowly, giving my knees time to get used to running again. I kept running at a slow pace for 10 minutes, but I felt my knees struggling with the run.

I was running so slow, but still, my body wasn’t able to feel comfortable. “God I hate this,”  I thought. “I REALLY hate this.”

I wrote about my hatred towards running before starting my training, and it was really disappointing that none of these feelings had changed so far.

Like a Turtle

After injuring my knees, I scaled down my training from four weekly runs to three. I started to run slower and avoided hills.

So on this run, I reduced my pace drastically. When Runkeeper announced halfway through my run that it was taking me seven minutes to run one kilometer, I felt my stomach tighten. And the farther I ran, the more time I would need to run that one kilometer. I felt like a turtle.

Judith's RK Map

I am a failure.

The week I started running, I felt very proud after each of my runs. But during the two runs I took after injuring my knees, I realized that I was not seeing any progress in my training. In fact, I was seeing the contrary. I felt like I was doing worse than I would have done without training, and I started doubting whether running the San Francisco Half Marathon was actually a good idea.

“No progress, slow pace, only being able to run for 30 minutes without injuring myself…. Geez, I am a loser. Maybe I should just quit now and abandon this whole plan.”

Thinking this actually made me sad. The experience and training should be part of an adventure, and they should make me happy and proud; they shouldn’t demotivate me and make me feel like a failure.

The Breakthrough

The fascinating thing about running is that there is always something pulling you through on every run. Whenever your light goes off, there will be another little light at the end of the tunnel that makes sure you keep moving those legs.

On this occasion, I ran straight to a park with an amazing view of the city — the perfect picnic spot on bright days. It was exactly this discovery that kept me running that night regardless of my pace and performance.

Alta Plaza Park in San Francisco

Alta Plaza Park in San Francisco

I was close to giving up, but finding this little gem gave me the strength to run home, even if I was moving like a turtle.

Four Things I’ve Learned from My “Bad Runs”

1. Things WILL get rocky: I wrote it before, and I will repeat it: You’re not the running hero you think you are, so things will get rocky. Your body will fail you. Your mind will fail you. Your supporters will fail you. Accept that not all days will be good days and move on.

2. Don’t give up until next week: Bad performances and feeling like a failure are temporary. Don’t give up until a week later. Another run will pull you through.

3. Look for the light: Look for those little moments on your run that can pull you through the “dark period.” It can be the moment that you find a hidden gem in your city, or the moment you feel like your legs are carrying you and you don’t have to think about anything, or even the moment when the strangers on the road begin to encourage you. Focus on that light rather than the pain and any negative feelings.

4. There is no such thing as a “bad run”: Don’t get overly disappointed with your performance. Don’t set expectations too high or feel like you have to stick rigorously to your training plans. Let it go, run YOUR run and let your body lead the way!

Judith Straetemans

About the author:
Judith Straetemans

Judith is a 26-year-old running newbie challenging herself to run a half marathon. Originally from Belgium, Judith crossed the ocean to San Francisco to join the digital health startup, Addapp. She’s always up for adventure and is a big fan of nightly bike rides and confetti.

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