York 10K: What went wrong

I didn’t look at my medal for a while after collecting it because I knew I didn’t deserve it.

I tried not to wear my medal. It felt too heavy, probably because I didn’t deserve it.

It had all gone wrong. Well, how dare I look forward to something? I know that’s not allowed. It was careless of me to have hopes. That’s therapy’s fault that is – convincing me that it’s ok. Well it’s not. It’s not ok.

Last year I absolutely LOVED the York 10K. LOVED it! It was my 2nd ever 10k, I ran/walked it, had a lovely time and finished within my goal time at 1:04:17.

York 10K 2017 (last year) smashed it

This year I approached the event with excited expectation; I was a runner now! I’ve done four half marathons! I can blitz this 10K!

Trying on my outfit for York 10k 2018. Excited!

In the days leading up to it I wondered if I could aim sub60, I was sure I could physically do it. I knew that mentally it would be a challenge so I decided to aim for 62 minutes. That’d be great time for me.

I was running late and had too much to carry (bad planning. Idiot!). I arrived at the start line feeling unprepared. I didn’t have time to browse any playlists so just had to stick on my regular running one. It was nearly all irrelevant anyway as I’d forgotten my headphones and had to go back to the baggage truck to get them (idiot!).

The race started and I felt good. Thighs were still a bit grumbly but I figured they’d warm up and stop complaining soon enough.

Posing at the start

I tried to be relaxed and I was running a good pace. Everything was going well. After 2k worry about the heat began. You see, I had suffered heat exhaustion a few weeks ago despite being very sensible at the Castle Howard Half. My experience of heat exhaustion had terrified me and I was keen to avoid a repeat performance. And there it was…a seed of fear planted.

Well, ok, I thought. That’s not horrendous. I can slow down a bit which is exactly what I did. I sipped and poured water over myself. At 4k the struggle was really starting spread:

You are too tired, you have to walk. No! I can run 5k without walking. I know I can! Maybe you can but not today. You are hot. Your thighs feel heavy. You’re not even halfway through. I don’t need to walk. Look I’ll walk at 5k I just want to mentally get that far first ok? Sure. Fine. Keep running. Get heat exhaustion because that’s clever isn’t it? “

So at about 4.6k I started to walk and the walk felt slow. I felt so heavy. The weight of failure pushed me down. “Hahaha you walked before 5k you absolute loser! I thought you were running it? You are so full of crap. Look at you! How are you going to get around 10k when you’re like this now? I’m being sensible. I need to cool down and then I shall run again”.

Which is exactly what I did.

It was too late now, the self-critical voices had been given airtime and they weren’t going to give it up any time soon. “Loser. Fraud. Pathetic. Deluded. Fake. Failure”. Worry chimed along with them “it is too hot you are going to ill. You are going to get ill. All of this worry might lead to a panic attack. How do you feel? Do you think you can hold that off? Oh god, the heat!”

I trudged along with this all happening. I tried to be mindful. I tried distractions. I tried arguing with the self-critical and the worry but nothing, nothing, was going to silence them and then, at 7k, it happened:

I can’t do this anymore.

With that supposed realisation I felt tears spring to my eyes. I was walking, obviously. The 1:05 pacer came past me and ran into the distance and all I could think was I-can’t-I-can’t-I-can’t-I-can’t and I’m stupid for ever believing otherwise. I brought this on myself. I looked around me for something, anything, that might help. There was nothing, only lots and lots of other runners. Help me. I can’t. My breath caught in my chest. Oh no. Oh no no no. I’ve got to be honest, between the tears and the beginnings of a panic, I was not in a great place.

However, I could see that I only had 3k to go. I can do 3k. The tears choked up my throat. I didn’t want to walk the last 3k, I really didn’t. So I walked…for a bit…and then? Tentatively ran…and then walked a little bit more…and then ran a little bit more…and then? I WAS DONE. I had finished the race. Pure relief. I uttered “thank god that’s done” as I crossed the line. I did not feel proud. I felt weak and ashamed. I did not care about my goody bag. My time came in almost immediately, 1:06:45. Not good enough.

I had to get my face on. I was going to see B and the kids. I needed to be ok, or at least look ok. I managed it. In fact I look absolutely ecstatic in my race photos. We were having a post race snacky picnic so I busied myself with that.

We all ran. Daughter got her first medal. I loved that

The crushing disappointment I felt was accompanied by bitterness. You see, I’ve never struggled in the heat before and after my heat exhaustion I decided to read up to try and figure out why it happened despite me taking lots of precautions, so that I could prevent it. The problem is that the only thing that it could be is my medications so yes, I felt bitter that my stupid medications, which I do need, were causing me this problem. I felt frustrated. What’s the point?

I can’t run in the cold because of Raynauds. When I get cold it physically hurts, for hours, and I just can’t get warm.

I can’t run in the heat because I overheat.

I can’t try to run faster because it causes me panic attacks.

With all this is mind the only thing that I could think was that it was time to give up. Give up running. No one ever believed I could be a runner, did they? That’s why people express such surprise at me being a runner. It’s just not me. I can work bloody hard at it to stay still. Where is the satisfaction in that?! Marathon?! Ridiculous and more than that – egotistical. Why on earth did I think that I could do that?! Who the hell did I think I was?! Yup, all of this going on in my head, like invisible ninja kicks to my gut: failure failure failure.

By the time we headed home from the event my emotions were running riot. The self criticism loop on a crippling crescendo: selfish pathetic everything is your fault fake…etc. I felt physically weak too and that wasn’t helping. I started to become reliant on B to help me pack up. The heat. I just couldn’t…

Tripping faced post race selfie at home

The misery was overwhelming.

RING-A-DING-DONG!!!! Overwhelming emotions what am I supposed to do then? Schema diary, that’s what! (Schema therapy is the psychotherapy that I’m doing now). Right. Ok. I thought through the process. Clearly I was feeling (falsely) like I wasn’t good enough. That’s something called my unrelenting standards schema. It sounds daft but I wondered how I hadn’t realised earlier that was what was happening!

Reinventing Your Life, Young and Klosko. The book I use in therapy

Now that I had recognised I could start to chip, chip, chip away at it. Just figuring that out brought some relief. Perhaps I’m not actually the worst person in the world? Just a suggestion? (That’s my defectiveness schema battering me right there)

There was a bit of using DBT skills too (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy – another therapy that I’ve done). I checked the facts, I considered the pros and cons of quitting running. I thought about my values and priorities. I settled. I was ok.

As I began unlocking all of this I saw that my unrelenting standards schema had been quietly snaking away all week in the background. I knew why too; too many people had said nice things recently to me (like being inspirational). Those kind words had triggered my mind into fighting those positive ideas. I’d been emotionally shut down all week as protection. I couldn’t deal with the emotions that were boiling up so I had put a lid of the pan and shut it off, which was all fine and good until kilometre 7 of the York 10k.

Today (the day after), I feel a lot better. Screwed, but better. Ironically I seem to have caught a cold! Yeah good one – catches a cold whilst worrying heat exhaustion! My body physically hurts everywhere, like I’ve been in a fight and I’m sneezing like a good ‘un. I’m very tired so will be resting and recovering today. Sometimes I quite like these types of days. They are a gift. These are the days when I can reflect and look forward, understanding what has happened and planning my next steps. It is encouraging and a complete antidote to the everything is pointless I should just give up everything meltdown.

Forward. It’s the only way.

At least when you’re running a race and hit the wall you know how far you have to go. Life isn’t like that is it? We don’t know how many km or uphill sections there are coming around the corner. That’s a lot harder.

Today I look at my medal with fondness. Yesterday was a big day for me. It sucked! It wasn’t what I had planned for or expected yet I got a hell of a lot out of it.

Now, I’m off to use my Race discount to buy me some trainers and…in case you’re wondering… I’ve already signed up for the York 10k 2019. See you next year.

1 thought on “York 10K: What went wrong

  1. This is such a powerful post.. the quote about there being a whole lot between perfection and failure is so true. My partner is always telling me that it’s ok to be grey., I’m not either a superhero or a failure. But I think in running that is even more magnified- because it DOES make me feel like I have superpowers when it all goes right. It seems illogical that some days you seem to go backwards.. how can you be proud of something that you thought you’d got past. But it sounds like you absolutely nailed turning your emotions around. It wasn’t a disastrous run.. it wasn’t your best run either but not every run can be!! Look after yourself and be super proud because you ARE a real runner 😘


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