Fear of Failure…

For a while I’ve harboured a dream of being able to run a good for age marathon qualification time and yet, despite having a few good training blocks over the years, my marathon PB stands at a rather sedate, for my lofty ambitions, 3 hours and 39 minutes and often I flatter to deceive when it comes to racing.

Over the last few weeks I’ve taken a long hard look at my training and racing history and have made the following observations:

• I’m a better trainer than racer
• I am inconsistent in my training
• I make some very poor diet choices
• I will undermine my performances

Looking at the above it is very clear that if I am ever to achieve my goals I will need to get to the underlying causes of the above and work on a plan to mitigate these issues. Over the last week or so I’ve started to think about what the underlying cause of these could be. At first I came up with the usual stories that I tell myself, stuff like “my life has been busy”. “I’ve been unlucky in races”, “I can’t get good quality food when I work away” etc. etc. The truth is however much more simple than this and is something I’ve never admitted before…Fear of Failure.!

That’s right, the real truth is that I am scared that if I truly commit that I will fail and will be judged on that failure. Externally I exhibit confidence and composure, internally however, way deep at the back of my consciousness, I am in a state of fear and panic. This fear of failure manifests itself in undermining behaviours. Rather than doing the things that I know will ensure success I will start on the pathway and then, quickly find a way to undermine and destroy my progress in an attempt to save myself from the potential failure that may come with committing to the goal 100 percent.

Crazy eh? Despite kind of knowing this for the last few years it’s taken ‘til now for me to be acknowledge this and admit that I have a fear of failure!

It’s all very well and good knowing this but, how will this change my behaviours? Going forward, what will I do different? If I’m ever to truly achieve my full potential it is something I need to manage better. The first step in managing this is admitting the issue…check, done that! The next step is to recognise when I start to undermine by progress. This is a little more challenging. Often I don’t notice until it’s too late…now however, I intend to review every training session / run I complete with a critical eye. The first question I will ask is “did I attempt to undermine my progress?”. This will also be asked at the end of each training week. This will hopefully help in spotting those fear of failure symptoms earlier and allow me to intervene and halt the destructive behaviours that are associated with this.

OK, so what about the original goal? Whilst a GFA qualification is a reasonable target it should not be my final destination. I am a strong believer in never putting a ceiling on individual performance. Life and coaching has shown me many examples of people who achieve extraordinary results with a modicum of ability and a large dose of focus. For me, now that I have finally admitted to myself the real reason of my lack of progress, my goal has now be redefined entirely. I am going to work towards at 2 hour 45 minute marathon PB over the next 18 months. Wow are you crazy? That’s nearly an hour off your marathon PB! Will I achieve this? This is something I cannot determine today, but it does seem a hell of a stretch goal and is a long way off from where I am today. If I can’t even put 5 x 3 minute 55 second kilometres together today how on earth can I expect to put together 42k at that pace!!!

My plan is simple however, over the coming weeks and months I will gradually build up my volume and intensity of training, focus on my nutrition and perform regular checks on myself looking for those ‘fear of failure’ signs and symptoms. The overall aim is less so about achieving the actual time target but more about what I learn from attempting to run a 2 hour 45 minute marathon in 18 months. I may not achieve the end time however, I am certain will learn a whole lot about myself during the journey and should come out of the other side in the best shape of my life…

Wish me luck, I’m gonna need it!

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