"What will people think of me?” Recognising the real fears of real runners

In my last blog I wrote about getting goosebumps when trying to choose the right event for 2016.  I got an amazing response to this blog and even had one of the Go Runners suggest that the idea of a first marathon gave her goosebumps and that we start working towards that as a new goal.  AWESOME!!

Before we all get carried away, it is important to recognise that goosebumps are just the start…  Now the tough stuff starts.  Time to overcome all of those real but hidden fears that we put in the way of ourselves when training for these events.  This blog is about recognising those fears. 

Even coaches are not immune to these fears.  In fact, I am one of those people that wants to be good at something before they try it.  This means that if i don’t think i will be good at it, I either don’t do it, or it takes A LOT of persuasion to get me to try.  This has been the case with numerous sports, from swimming as a kid, through to pilates as an adult, even my running has required a lot of work on this front.  My mum will tell anyone who cares to listen about my swimming lessons as a kid and how much I hated them, because I wanted to be able to swim already.  I don’t remember those very well (selective memory perhaps??) but I do remember signing up to train with a local football team in the UK one summer and being so petrified of going to training that I pretended to be sick, hid upstairs and refused to leave the house.  Now, lets get one thing very clear. I loved my football.  I played all day and watched it most evenings.

So why the drama?

I was absolutely petrified of not being good enough and of what people might think of me.

I can’t even dismiss this fear as being something that I only had as a kid, because I still care what people think.  I remember it took almost a year of persuading and waiting for me to try pilates, which I now love.  I remember putting off my first parkrun in Melbourne for weeks, whilst my wife, Kathryn went, raved about it and met some of the best friends we have ever had.  I have now done over 100 parkruns.  I have no doubt that I am getting better but Kathryn keeps telling me that I still care too much about what other people think.  I am a work in progress…..aren’t we all?

Over the past three months I have been doing a lot of listening to the runners I coach and others, hoping to understand more about some of the fears that exist for real people around their running. I have heard stories that really do make me sad.  Fears like...

"I still can't come to running with people I know. I get anxious and fear I'm holding them up. I can't even handle running with my partner.”
"I am someone that has started several beginner running plans and failed to complete a single one. I found other plans to be rather intimidating and have just given up because I felt so below average."
"I don’t fit the mould. I started running at night so that people couldn't see me. Because in my head people were looking saying, Wow look at how slow she is, she's not a runner, look at her weight, no wonder she is struggling…”
"I have been wanting to run for years but never felt like I was a runner”
“I’m sure I am going to be your worst client"
"What if I saw someone I knew and they saw how bad I was. This then led to me thinking what the hell are you doing out here? You've never been able to run so why start now? See you couldn't even make it to the corner.”

As a coach, I consider it is part of my job to recognise these fears and help people overcome them by gradually building their confidence, supporting their goals and helping them to break through their own inner barriers.

The good news is there are people who are overcoming these fears step by step, day by day and are achieving the goals and dreams that they have set for themselves.  I want to share an email I received from Carleen, one of my clients who completed the Melbourne Half Marathon in October 2015.  I think this email is AWESOME and shows what that change of mindset feels like and that it can be done. 

"Firstly, I am so very proud of myself for finishing the half marathon – completing the run was, for me, the first time that I’ve let go of focusing on a time and a physical outcome and it was about proving to myself that I could do something that, until I finished, I didn’t actually believe I could.  It turned out to be a confirmation that I have the physical, mental and emotional resilience to achieve my goals and I’d forgotten how very rewarding it feels to challenge yourself.  I hadn’t realised how risk adverse I had gotten with my goal setting and since finishing the half, I’ve realised that I’ve made a habit in the last 5 or so years or not putting myself out of my comfort zone, of always seeking to control the outcome and of not attempting if there was the slightest hint of self-doubt about the outcome.
However, something happened inside my head at the 20km mark (the sh*tty bit where you find out that you’re not going straight to the MCG like you thought but you actually have to veer off to your right and head up a B*stard Hill (a gentle slope upwards when not being run at the tail end of a half) and go round in a circle) where I had this moment of something that I can’t really explain but it feels like I’ve found myself and now I want to really run (the proper, floaty, effortless running) a half marathon.  It’s like a switch has been flicked. 
In regards to the training, friends have been the key to keeping me motivated – coaching provides me with the structure and accountability and friends the engagement and motivation to keep going.  On reflection, I probably could have gone faster, been more consistent and pushed myself harder in training but I remain happy with my outcome and I’m able to make those reflections with no self-castigation which is a huge step for me!
Prior to the run, the training schedule made logical sense but it felt like a plan rather than a way to a destination.  Training since has felt like it has a personal purpose – I don’t think that’s anything to do with coach or plan but more about me and my engagement and commitment.
Sooooo now I just wanna go faster and longer!"

HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!?  I love it.  Reading that email makes me smile whenever I read it.

From my story and Carleen’s story there are common threads. Lack of confidence, self doubt, beating yourself up when things don’t go well and more.  These are real fears, and the fear of what people think of you, is a big one that most of us have to overcome.  Magazine articles, blogs like this, coaches and videos can all help but ultimately overcoming these fears is down to you, and you can do it.  I urge you to re-read Carleen’s email and smile at the change that occurred.  Imagine that happening to you in the middle of a race.  

Now, let’s set about overcoming those fears….


Do any of these fears resonate with you?  I would love to hear from you in the comments section below, but also go ahead and sign up to the mailing list on the front page of the website and lets try and address some of these issues together.    I don’t have all of the answers but as a coach I am here to help.   I look forward to speaking to you!

Are you ready to run? If the answer is "YES!" then sign up here for your own running coach and personalised monthly training plan to get you running stronger, longer and faster.  I will get in touch straight away and we can begin working on getting your running to where you really want it to be!