Every Tuesday, Svveat Stories brings you Svveatspiration: an inspiring series of first-person narratives from our fitness community’s unsung heroes. This week, natural-born marathoner Eric Bang opens up about his struggle to find his confidence.

My fitness journey started in 2012 when I won a free entry into the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM). At the time I had never raced more than eight kilometres; my longest training run going into the marathon was 15 kilometres. I remember passing the 15K marker and thinking to myself that every step after this will be the farthest I have ever run.

I crossed the finish line at 2:59:54. My shins felt like they were glass and every step would shatter them; my hamstrings kept seizing and I was starving. By the time I hobbled back to my apartment, I decided I didn’t want to run another marathon, I wanted to race a marathon. I didn’t want to ever feel so broken ever again. The next time I stood on the start line, I wanted to be there to compete.

Here’s how my marathons have gone since:

In the past couple of years, I think I have finally started to reach that goal that I set back in 2012. When I get on the start line of a marathon now, I’m not there just to run, I’m there to execute a strong, controlled, calculated race—and I think this is my greatest triumph.

I know I’ve improved and am continuing to do so, but one thing I’ve struggled with in the past is finding my confidence.

I used to try to take up as little space as possible on the start line. I’d make sure to never be in the first row of runners because I never felt I belonged there. I’ve only asked race organizers for sub-elite entries twice, and when I’ve been granted them I’ve barely had the confidence to take advantage of the benefits of having front-of-the-line access to doing strides and drills.

I’ve since found my confidence in my training. Before I race, I look over my training log at all the work I’ve done and I look at all the evidence that says I am fit and ready to race. Now, when I’m on the start line, I’m confident in what I’m about to do. It’s when I start to shift my focus from myself, my race and my training to others that I get distracted and start doubting my place on a start line.

I think comparing yourself to others is something a lot of people struggle with in many areas of their lives. It’s important to remember that your only real completion is yourself. It doesn’t matter what anyone else on the start line is capable of; it doesn’t take away from or effect what you are capable of in any way.

Being a part of Toronto’s running community has really enriched my life. There are several different groups and individuals that have had a significant impact on running journey. When I went back to school in 2014, I started working at BlackToe Running. It was a really nice way to become engaged with more people in the running community. The owners, Mike and Maya, were so supportive of everything I had going on in my life.

It was during this time that I also started joining Black Lungs Toronto on their Sunday long runs. I had never done long runs before, so having them introduce me to this weekly ritual was a real turning point in my training. In that cycle, I recall going from a 2:42:05 to a 2:33:37. I really attribute that jump in fitness to them dragging me along on their gruelling Sunday long runs.

In 2015, I joined Toronto’s Nike+ Run Club (NRC) as a pacer, which has been one of the most rewarding experiences ever. Being a pacer for NRC has enabled me to not only meet more people, but also to share my passion with them. I feel like I have learned so much from running and about running over the years that it’s nice to have the opportunity to share my experience with others.

If you’re just starting your own fitness journey or looking to conquer new goals, my advice is to make sure the goals you set are your goals that you want to achieve. Take time to reflect, look at where you are at the start of this journey, what you are hoping to achieve and why. Make sure you have an answer for the why because every journey has its lows and there’s going to come a time that you’re going to ask yourself why you’re doing this.

Follow Eric on Instagram for a closer look at where his running journey is taking him. Better yet, check out the NRC page on Svveat to join him for a run.

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