"I'm Not Fast Enough"

Ultrarunning mindset coach Susan Donnelly conquers worry about DNF at UTMB

“I’m not fast enough or strong enough to get through those miles.”

All of us running marathons and ultramarathons have had some version of this thought.

One year at the start of Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc, I found myself near the end of the ginormous sea of runners. As we thinned out and got off paved road and then off gravel road onto the first of the real trail climbs, they seemed harder than I remembered them from past years. 

Every hill went straight up without switchbacks, at crazy steep pitches. They probably had before but it felt harder this time. The runners ahead and behind seemed to be fine. but I had to pause on a few climbs, which I didn’t remember doing before. I could feel my glutes, quads and calves straining with every step.

“I'm not sure I’m strong enough to get through these miles,” I began to worry.

“What if I can’t?”

The scenario immediately flashed through my mind - parts of the stunningly beautiful course I’d miss, all the excitement and work for nothing, the cloud of disappointment hanging over the after-race vacation in Chamonix, what this might mean for future races...

But it wasn’t real. And the thought wasn’t true, at least not yet. I was still running the race!

It was just the Critic in my head. This prehistoric cranial relic that warned us when we were doing something risky enough to get eaten by a saber tooth tiger.

We all have a Critic. Everyone does. But endurance runners have way more spare thinking time than most for the Critic to sneak thoughts in our minds.

So you need a strategy, and here’s one of the best...

Find the proof you already have.

Before your race, get out a piece of paper and pen (writing is proven to help it stick) and describe:

  • Your best running performance to date

  • The longest distances you’ve finished, and how many times you’ve done them

  • The biggest challenge you’ve overcome

  • Every award, medal, and buckle you’ve earned

  • Compliments others have given you about your running

When you’re done, look at your list. Bigger than you thought it'd be when you started?

Everything on that list is proof that you ARE fast enough and strong enough to do amazing things, like get through those miles. 

It’s proof that you’ve come through before when your Critic didn’t think you could. Many times.

Even if you’ve never run this far before, it’s proof that getting through those miles is as likely or likelier than the Critic's version.

The end of my story is that I caught the Critic in action, countered those thoughts with the memory of my last finish there, and went on to finish two hours faster.

From here on, every time in training, everyday life, or racing that voice starts whispering it’s tale of doubt and woe, I want you to challenge it.

Aha! You’re sneaky. I almost didn’t hear you but I'm not buying it, and here's why...”

Challenging your Critic gets easier with practice and with more additions to your proof list.

So get out there in spite of your Critic and add to that list.

Please share this with anyone else that could use the inspiration!

Until next week,

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PS - I’ve got two brand-new openings for 1:1 coaching where we can work on persistent, results-killing thoughts like this. I know from being coached that it's the difference between trying to change your mindset and actually doing it. Check it out here and email me with any questions!