Delusions Are Important

“Delusions are important,” says Mel. “If we didn’t lie to ourselves, we wouldn’t do anything.” I’m not sure that’s true. I think ambition is important. I think that striving is important. I think stretch goals are important if you want to improve. I know that chasing someone you think is quicker than you around a track is a good way to get faster yourself. That’s not deluding yourself; it’s giving yourself a target.

An honest assessment of where you are in your training is important when you go out and run your race. There is no point in going out at a pace you can’t sustain unless you just want lungfuls of pain and sore and sorry legs to go with the humiliation of limping home stylelessly. Why go out at six minute miles when you’re going to cross the line shambling at half the pace. Go out steadily, pick up the pace as you go on and then finish like a train, picking up places all the time.

Maybe it’s not really delusions, maybe it’s dreams or visualisations. Sometimes we need to see ourselves doing things we haven’t yet done to believe we can do them. Does that make sense? There are all sorts of visualisation techniques athletes use to help them perform to the very best of their ability. I still don’t think that’s lying to ourselves although it is creating something which isn’t real.

There will always be times when ambition exceeds ability, sometimes to a heroically comic extent. The one time I almost ran a 200m PB chasing Group 1 home at the very end of a cut-down and then spent the next ten minutes throwing up into a bin by the side of the track. I was still off the back of the group and I hadn’t done the six and a half kilometers running up to that last effort. Or the Kevin Henry 5k at Impington where I had to stop with 800m to go for a tactical chunder. Those efforts were certainly delusional.

There is one context in which goals should not be easily attainable. If you always exceed your expectations, then your expectations are too low. Your sandbagging yourself. That’s as bad for you as never attaining your goals because they are unrealistically high. Perhaps there is a compromise to be made in which you reach your goals a little over half the time.

So, is setting a stretch goal the same as self-delusion, as lying to yourself? It’s an interesting question.

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A Sense of Achievement

I didn’t want to do much today. I thought I’d go for a wee run after breakfast. The plan said 20 miles but the plan could fuck off. I might do 10, or 13 or maybe even 15 miles. I’d do 20 if I got really lost. I had some chores to do too, and packing for my trip to London this week.

I did none of those things.

I ate a box of chocolates. It’s an achievement of sorts, I suppose. It was a SMART goal. It was Specific: eat an entire box of chocolates today. It was Measurable: eat one box of chocolates. It was Attainable: four boxes of chocolates would have been a stretch at this point in my training cycle. It was Rewarding: I fucking love chocolate so consuming an entire box of it was really its own reward and therefore almost Zen. Finally it was within a given Time: I ate those chocolates today.  It was just not my SMART goal for today.

It wouldn’t have been a smart thing to do any day but I didn’t explode and I wasn’t sick but I didn’t go for my run. I have been to the Household Waste Site too. (This is Cambridge; we don’t have a tip, darlings.)

I’ve also made dinner. It was supposed to be lamb casserole but there was no diced lamb in Tesco nearby. I came back thinking I’d do beef stew instead but it turns out I bought minced lamb because I wasn’t paying enough attention so we’re having that with dumplings. We will if I first of all remember that I still have to make the dumplings; secondly, remember how to make dumplings; and finally, remember to put the dumplings into the mince.

(I had to check that I have actually started to cook dinner and not just imagined that I’ve put it in the oven. It’s being one of those days.)

Lack of sleep and painkiller hangovers are playing havoc with me. One day when the pain has faded and the anger has abated sufficiently for me to write about it without the result being just one huge FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK! then I’ll tell you all about my Adventures in Dentistry. It’s probably going to be a while before that happens.

I still need to pack, fill the car’s tank with diesel, sort out some papers for the morning, worry a bit, have a brief panic, unpack, sigh, repack, realise that I’ll need some of the stuff I’ve packed overnight, swear, sigh, unpack a bit, fish out the things I need, repack everything else, worry about forgetting the things I need overnight when I leave at oh fuck o’clock tomorrow morning and finally not get enough sleep tonight because I’m worried about getting up in time to get to Ealing tomorrow.

Sundays haven’t changed since I was 14 and had to do homework over the weekend for a Monday morning. I’m nearly 50 years old and I’m still fed up with doing my homework.

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