You had the Grand Plan and you knew exactly what you were doing. It was clear when you sat down in January and looked at your blank 2020 calendar, ringed the date in April with a red Sharpie and wrote “A Race”.
You even knew it was coming because you’d entered that ballot in 2019, wishing hopefully you’d get the spot. And with a “You’re In” message, bolted to the shops, bought yourself some new trainers and told the staff your Grand Plan. You started plotting your route to the race distance. The ambition was high.
And now you don’t. Now there’s nothing but a date crossed out and an empty feeling in your stomach. You think you’ve wasted your efforts. It’s a dark feeling that ebbs in you, seeking out a niggle in your knee or your foot – just so you can say “It’s OK. Looks like I wouldn’t have managed to run it anyway”.
You start to question yourself.
“Why do I bother? Why do I even enter races? I only end up having to pull out of most of them for one reason or another. And it’s not like I’m going to get a podium finish anyway. There’s no point!”
The self-deprecation is dangerously vicious because it comes from the same place as the energy which keeps you going mile after mile. That venom is just the alter ego of the big You-Can-You-Can-You-Can Guy that picks you up when the going is tough and carries your weary legs to the next marker.
This realisation, that your darker times are just the flip-side of the brightest moments, is your guide when the Grand Plan goes awry. It can help you work through some really practical things that can be achieved while you work out Grand Plan B.
Rest. Seriously, take a break. Your knees will thank you for it. You’ve been ratcheting up the miles, week after week, month after month. Take a week off. Hey, take two. It’ll be fine, honestly. Not only will your body bounce back but you’ll also get a bit more spring back in your trainers too. Those mid-soles enjoy the rest as much as your legs. You can even do some cross-training. Borrow a bike and do some pedalling. It still counts and the change of scenery and equipment will make things feel fresh and interesting again.
Reassess. Use the time to think about what you were trying to do. Goals are good. Doesn’t matter whether you achieve them or not because their primary purpose is to give you direction. They focus your training and give you motivation. It’s goals that get me to go out and run in the worst of weather, and give me the reason to push on another mile. Without goals You-Can-You-Can-You-Can Guy is a bit more weary and a bit less muscular. Consider if the Grand Plan is still the right goal for you, even if it’s been rescheduled. People change, so plans can change too.
Resume. Then get back in the game. It’s why you’re here. Don’t get swallowed by the sofa, sucked in by “just one more episode” of Game of Thrones. You’ve taken the time to consider your Grand Plan B, you’ve rested and spiced things up, and now you’re back. You might start a bit slower, or go a little less further than where you left off, but you’re back – that’s the main thing. And once you start again, stopping immediately becomes much harder.
When races are cancelled or postponed, or an injury gets in the way, it’s never ideal. But that’s no reason to just toss everything into the canal and take up crochet – however attractive that dark alter ego might make it seem. Running is such a natural and enriching activity that even the simplest goal, like a new PB on your Garmin, is all you need to put the spring back in your step and get back on the road to your Grand Plan.