Not Expecting Perfection

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in expecting things to be perfect. For my long runs, I imagine popping up the moment the alarm goes off, feeling fantastic the moment my eyes open, being completely excited about the idea of a 20 mile run and having that bounce in my step for the entire run.

And then when things don’t go as planned, I get so thrown off and down with myself that I have had the tendency to quit and give up. This has been a huge problem for me during training as well as racing. I spend so long dreaming of and imagining the perfect race that I often quit mentally long before my body is ready to.

But training, especially marathon training, will not be perfect every step of the way. The more I race and the more I train, the more I learn this. There will be those magical long runs where everything clicks or those tempos where the pace feels effortless. But there will be just as many hard-fought long runs where every step feels like a death march or easy runs where you just want to sleep in.

And it’s these tough runs that we overcome that help us on race day.

photo (23)

This past weekend was my first 20 miler in months (I did one back in early August before taking a few weeks off from training). The alarm was set for 4:45am but after a few nights of poor sleep, I went back to sleep/laid in bed and debated even going. After getting up at 6:30am and having some coffee, I decided to eat a light breakfast, wait for the food to digest and then give the run a try.

Honestly though? I didn’t want to run. I HATE leaving for long runs after the boys are awake. I feel guilty for being away from them and I spend much of the run thinking about returning home to them as soon as I can.

I knew it was going to be a toasty run from the moment I started…one of the downsides of starting at 8:30am instead of 5:30am. It was already 75 degrees, sunny and humid (85%). I kept the display on my Garmin to total time and distance so I could just run and not worry about pace.

The first 8.6 miles were great – I found a rhythm and felt strong. I returned to our home to drink some water and take a gel (which I keep outside on our car). My two little guys saw me through the window and the desire to continue running plummeted. 11.5 miles seemed so far. So I comprised. I’d run another 7.4 miles (get to 16 total) and when I returned for another gel and water, they would finish the 20 miles with me. They were excited. I was excited. It was a win-win.

Miles 1-16:
7:43 average for 16 miles

photo (25)The last four miles were fun, happy and hard.

photo (24)

Thankfully, my husband ran with us and pushed the double stroller for a good portion of those miles (I managed to push it three times for about 3-4 minutes each time). We ran to a park by our house, listened to the Disney channel on Pandora and saw some wildlife.

photo (26)

The 20 miles (followed by 6 recovery on Sunday) capped off a 52 mile week – a bit lower than planned but I cross-trained on Monday (my hips were really sore after Sunday’s half marathon) and took an unplanned rest day on Friday (just needed the sleep). And rather than get down on myself for skipping a workout, I’m actually pleased with myself for putting my body’s needs first. I feel rested and ready for a big week in training!

Do you expect perfection in your training? 

Have you run with a stroller for your long run?


I don’t post here every day, but I post all of my workouts (and other happenings) on Instagram on a daily basis {NYCRunningMama}.

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    23 thoughts on “Not Expecting Perfection

    1. No I don’t expect perfection from my trainings. Perhaps that’s because I have more relaxed approach towards fitness. I don’t run but walk. I can’t run due to the back injury.
      Fast power walking is what keeps me in shape for years: now with a second pregnancy, I still go on my daily 3 mi walking and I’m doing it for 8 years every day.
      It’s quite hard sometimes to get myself out for a walk but after 30-40 minutes I feel such an uplift.
      Is it a 17-min mile, or 5 min mile, it’s still a mile…

    2. It’s hard because we feel we NEED perfect training for perfect race. And neither of those things exist. Obviously don’t like when workouts or runs don’t go as planned but sometimes it’s nice to just be able to say ‘better today than on race day’. You are doing awesome with training and love how you combine your training with some family time. I have never done a long run with a stroller but I cannot imagine how much harder that must make it.
      Laura @losingrace recently posted..Rochester: Post-RaceMy Profile

    3. Oh yes. I do always expect a good run and I know that it’s completely unrealistic. So glad that you got your 20 miler in but more than that, I love how you are so supported in your running by your family. I love that you boys were excited to run with you!
      Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..50 QuestionsMy Profile

    4. YES! I could not agree with you more. I have definitely learned this lesson during this marathon segment, and its hard! Last year everything went so well, and I even managed to do 20 mile long runs at 6:12!!! That should not be humanly possible for someone hoping to run 2:40….thats more like a 2:30 time, yet in the race it all came crashing down. This year I really struggled not to compare myself, and like you said, think in your head that it is going to be wonderful, and you will feel strong every step. But at the end of the day, 20 miles is still 20 miles! You only have to drive it to see just how far that really is!!! It is incredible what the body can do, and too often we do not appreciate it. You definitely seem to be better at stepping back and realizing what you have achieved, and especially with your beautiful family, you make the most of every situation, and that is how you have done so much, yet have so much more to come :)
      Tina Muir recently posted..The ProposalMy Profile

    5. I’m just starting to run with a stroller and currently do my long runs without it. But I would rather spend the time at home with my daughter and husband. On the other side, I just keep reminding myself that running makes me happy and my husband gets to enjoy some alone time with my daughter, which is important for their relationship.
      Christine recently posted..Howlin’ Coyote 10k Trail RaceMy Profile

      • Christine – could not agree more with you! It’s tough b/c my oldest is at an age where he literally cries at the window and begs me to not run. And running is not that important where I have to, you know? It’s easier when I leave when he’s sleeping – he is totally fine with me not being there when he gets up and knows I will be back after my run.
        nycrunningmama recently posted..Not Expecting PerfectionMy Profile

    6. Okay my marathon training was going so great. I’m three weeks away from marine corp. Sunday’s 14 miler was going so well until mile 10 when i had this pain in my knee which made running almost impossible. Probably an IT band issue as my hip and whole right side is always in a funk. So this week no running for me-resting, icing, and praying that I can run the 26.2 at the end of the month. Perfection? Not any more
      Therese recently posted..Things you Might See Me do on a 20 Mile RunMy Profile

    7. I am so glad you wrote about this. I think about this all the time. Sometimes its worse if things have been really positive, and you’ve been loving your long runs, you worry you’re “losing it.” But the thing to remember is it happens. And it happens to everyone. I love how you handled it. You were good to yourself, and you figured out a way to meet your training plan but also make you happy. I wrote about something similar here:
      Nicole recently posted..The half marathon I didn’t runMy Profile

    8. Thanks for the post. I am training for my first full marathon (Philadelphia in November) and last Friday my long run 15-miles, every mile felt like my feet were stuck in the mud, however I pushed through cutting my run short and finished the 15-miles even though I was about 30-seconds slower average then goal pace. I am quickly learning that not every run is optimal, as some days I feel strong and run faster then goal and then the next run I struggle to get through the workout.
      Great Post Thanks!

    9. This weekend – I had planned on running 20. But my 3 year old daughter woke up at 5:30 am. I decided to take her with me instead of waking everyone in the house. We got 16 miles in. I felt great. She really loves coming with me on my runs and I will be sad when she is too big for the jogging stroller. I feel so much stronger running some or all of my long runs with the jogger.

    10. I really really needed this post today! I’ve been seriously doubting my training 6 weeks from race day and my ability to complete the marathon…you are so right. Not every run will be perfect/how I expect it. Thank-you so much!

    11. Awesome job lady! I know how tough it can be to get out the door sometimes and I can totally relate to that guilt you feel leaving your (awake) little one(s) behind! I did a 10 miler with my little guy one time before my first half. It was tough and slow but I was happy we could do it together! Now that he’s older he usually will only sit still for 5-6 miles which I’m okay with!
      Kaella (KaellaOnTheRun) recently posted..Training TuesdayMy Profile

    12. Seriously, I was just nodding and nodding while reading this! I have the exact same struggles, including the idea of running after my kids are awake, like I can’t even do it. It’s kind of a problem! I get all this mom guilt and just want to stay with them and then feel guilty for not wanting to run! It’s a lose lose! SO no matter how tired/crappy I’m feeling at 5am, I get up then to do my long runs and weekday runs so I can be back in the morning and also avoid the sun.

      I was also just having a conversation with a friend about “giving up” in a race or workout when you know it won’t be a PR or what you wanted/expected. It’s definitely a perfectionism thing. I don’t have it terribly because I wind up adjusting my expectations to PUSHING myself as hard as I can regardless of the result, and I’m satisfied if I know I’ve done that. Totally relate to this post, great one!
      Michele @ paleorunningmomma recently posted..Should I Be Ashamed That I Want to Make Money Blogging?My Profile

    13. I definitely understand the pressure to always have a great run. I try to not beat myself up after a bad workout. It’s just part of the process. The bad runs really make me appreciate the good ones!
      Jennifer recently posted..12 Taper TipsMy Profile