After a less-than-thrilling performance, it can be a bit discouraging to hop back on the training wagon and keep running. In fact, it’s probably pretty normal to start questioning methods and whether the effort was worth it.
A little perspective, though, can make all the difference. After all, runners tend to be pretty hard on themselves.
Three years ago, as the Twin Cities Marathon approached, I had all but decided to give up the marathon. My sights turned to trail races and triathlons, and had it not been for a commitment as a charity runner, certainly I would have bowed out of the race. And I would have carried around a big regret despite my complete dislike for cold-weather racing (the wind chill was 25 degrees at the start).
The race proved to be anything but ideal and can be summed up in two lasting memories — running 25 miles in a cut-up garbage bag in an effort to stay warm and meeting a high school buddy at the finish line, where we both commiserated about the experience. It took two more years to get to the starting line of the New York City Marathon, which at the time had a grandfather clause for those who had been rejected 3 straight years.
In both cases, I had too much invested to quit. And quitting simply isn’t in my DNA.
When things get rough, my natural reaction is to push harder.
Initially, after feeling disappointment with my half marathon performance this past weekend, I questioned whether the past 4 months of hard training have been worth it. Forcing myself out for a 9-mile run after work on Monday, it was time for reflection. So many factors play into a good performance, and a few — nutrition and sleep — didn’t bode well heading into the race.
My theme song for St. George’s Marathon flashed through my head: I won’t back down. With less than 3 weeks before the race, now is the time to push — not back off on the accelerator.
To race — if you are aiming to be your best — proves to be an investment: time, money and sacrifice. To do it well, runners make choices and must give up some things — among the sacrifices can be sleep, their favorite foods and weekend nights out. The training likely won’t be comfortable, either, especially if your fueling strategy is to train low and race high.
What they receive in return, though, offers irreplaceable rewards. Over the past several months that’s been spending good time with friends on trails and roads. Soaking up the sun while laying down mile after mile in the great outdoors. Better fitness. The hope of returning to the running form of my 30s.
As the miles piled up in August, I was ready to be done with the hard training and looked forward to the marathon taper. But I’ve invested too much to dial it back quite yet. Race day is nearly here and when it arrives I want to be assured there’s nothing else that could have been done. When the horn blasts on that Saturday, I want to put all those miles to good use. For some 3 hours and change, I won’t back down.