I didn't do as well as I had hoped. Admittedly, I still did well, placing 8th out of 57 in my age group. And double admittedly, I haven't actually been racing (or even running) for very long in the grand scheme of things; really only a couple of years. So why am I so hard on myself?
I presume it's because I strive for excellence in whatever it is that I'm doing. I've always been a theatre girl, a girl who sings but isn't especially athletic. When I was doing theatre basically full-time, I threw my everything into it. Three hours of rehearsal a night, plus whatever extra time I had to devote to memorizing music, lines and choreography. And once I started getting faster in races, and then started placing in races... well, I got a taste of what it is like to be really good at something else.
For me, the chance to prove that I have another talent I didn't know I had is exhilarating! It's not just the chance to prove to the people I know that I'm not just a theatre person; it's a chance to prove to myself that I *can* be athletic. I can actually be a competitor.
So, it's true, I didn't place as high as I would have liked last Saturday. But it's also true that I am my toughest critic, I am the person who has the highest expectations of myself. And sometimes, I'm not going to place top three, and that's fine. I started that race saying to myself, "Ok. This is a big race. Chances are good, I won't place top three in age. That's okay. But I *will* place top ten in age."
And you know what? I did that. I found a good and challenging (but not out outlandish) goal for myself, and I hit it. I find that one of the easiest ways to fail when training, is to expect SO much out of yourself that you end up missing the mark and feeling dejected.
I'm not saying not to set expectations for yourself. I'm saying, don't set expectations *so* high that you can't reach them. Because frankly, you will reach them in time. But it might not be tomorrow, or the day after, or even the month after. Sometimes that larger goal takes lots of smaller goals as a step-ladder.
My larger point is, a skill takes time, devotion, and patience to develop. Even if you have a natural talent for something, it *still* takes practice to get it where you'd like to see it. Set attainable goals, and don't be too hard on yourself. Each goal reached is like a prize, something you did for yourself that you didn't do yesterday. And that, in itself, is an amazing feat.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~Winston Churchill