The Importance of Delusion in Running

I recently found a notebook of mine from Summer 2010. In it I had recorded a marathon training plan that ended with a 26.2 mile run at 9:09 pace. 

The irony that this was my goal pace for my NYC Marathon training this past summer is not lost on me.


I proceeded to diligently track each day how far I ran and whether I had met my goal. 

My first entry looked like this:

“6/21/10: 4 miles easy (10:04); Goal time: 40:16

Start: 6:23 am; End: 7:10 am;

Took 47 minutes, about 7 minutes over GT. Good run, pace varied throughout run, didn’t time each individual mile but need to make each mile more uniform in pace.”

And I went on to provide these details every day until 8/18. 

Then boom. Stopped

When I wrote down the details of the plan in June did I really think I’d:

a) actually run 26.2 miles; or 

b) be able to run it at a 9:09 pace?

But that’s where importance of delusion comes in.

Delusion prevents you from really understanding how big your dreams are.

Delusions help you continue towards a dream for years, because you’ve convinced yourself it’s possible.

Delusion helps you make progress towards ridiculous goals because you don’t realize how much work it will really take.

I thought I could achieve this goal. It really didn’t matter the goal was completely out of touch from reality because I took myself seriously in my training, even though my real abilities were far from my delusions and my actual paces far from the prescribed paces. 

Delusion in my abilities helped cement my identity as a runner that summer. It pushed me though nine weeks of training during the heat of summer. 

Looking back, this first summer of “marathon” training served as mental and physical base training for my future self. If I realized how absurd my training was I never would have tried. But I did try. And I tried again the next summer. And the next summer. And each summer I ran a little longer and ran a little more.  

Until finally in 2014, I started the training in June and instead of quitting in August or September, I kept running. Until it was the day of the race.

Then I did it. I ran my first marathon. 

Definitely not in 9:09 pace, but that really didn’t matter. The delusion in my potential helped propel me forward each summer to try again. 

Delusion gives you permission to pursue absurd goals. And when you look up from working towards those goals, and you realize how much progress you’ve made, it doesn’t really matter if the end goal changed. It matters more you made progress and moved forward from where you were. The delusion was the oil that greased my wheels. 

Because maybe one day delusion will meet reality.

And writing this, I’ve found a synonym for delusions: dreams.


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