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Racing Against Expectations: Finding Balance Between Ambition and Reality in Running

Woman running along a paved road.
Me during the 10k race in St-Laurent, Qc. on April 7th, 2024.

Expectations in running — why do they matter? Well, they’re the reason one runner finishes a 40-minute 10k with a smile, while another is fighting off frustration. And sometimes, they’re what separate our feelings of triumph from disappointment in the same race distance, just weeks apart. This was my experience today.


Two weeks ago, I kicked off my running season with a 'rust buster' 10k, clocking in at 40:30. It was my first race, and honestly, I didn't set any big goals; I just wanted to remember what it felt like to push through a 10k. Finishing close to 40 minutes, I was fairly content. But today, running the same distance in 40:26, I felt an unexpected sting of defeat. I had hoped to do better, to be better.


So, where do these expectations come from? They sneak up on us from everywhere. If you've been training harder or the weather's on your side, naturally, you expect to run faster. A hilly course might have you adjusting your aims — unless, of course, you've been running hills in training. Even having gas left in the tank after your last race, or watching your training buddies crush their events, can make you think you’ll ace your next one too.


This begs the question: Should we just lower our expectations? I used to think so because I disliked feeling let down. But here's the catch: without pushing the envelope, how will you ever discover your true potential? We need those slightly terrifying goals; they nudge us out of complacency. After all, it’s the races where we fall short that spur us to work on overlooked aspects of our fitness. I was aiming for a sub-39 minute run today, and not hitting that mark has already got me planning my next attempt at a race on May 5th. And what about in the meantime? Well, with the snow off the track, it's the perfect chance to work on speed.


Let's talk about your expectations. Have you ever felt both overjoyed and discouraged by the same result? Did it push you to try something new in your training? Lets talk about setting expectations that are high but within the realm of our capabilities. Chime in below with your thoughts, your personal anecdotes, and let's support each other in striking that balance between ambition and attainable goals.

Photo Credit: Aldo Bellon

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Unknown member
Apr 08

It’s a big courageous positive thing to have public goal that is difficult and go out and try for it.

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