Lessons learned the hard way from racing

Lessons learned the hard way from racing

In the world of running and racing, it doesn’t get much better than staying strong and running a smart, perfectly executed race.  Usually these are the races that end with our best time on the finish line clock.  We learn a lot from these races and set the bar to measure all our future races by the success we earned in that one.

So what about those races we want to forget about the moment we cross the finish line?  We showed up to race and for whatever reason lost our way?  Maybe it was the weather, the course, our fitness level or our mind but for some reason we lost focus and the willpower to give it our best.  What about the races we fight just to finish- forget the time because we know it’s going to be bad?  What are the lessons we learn from these racing disasters?

I remember the half marathon I started a bit too optimistically.  In my head I had a goal pacing plan but my body wasn’t quite ready for it yet.  The last five miles were awful.  After it was over I was really wishing I had a time machine so I could get a do-over…

Sure, you can pass me… I was done!

One of my clients I coach had a race this weekend that did not go as planned.  She sent me her times and admitted that she went out too fast and could never recover from that first mile. It’s a tough lesson to learn the hard way but most of us have been down that road more than once.

Friday night my oldest daughter was having her usual case of pre-race jitters.  “Did I say I wanted to run in this race?  I don’t know if I want to do it now…” etc.  One thing about racing with your kids- they all process race anxiety differently.  My six and eight year-old were also running in it and didn’t worry at all about it.  My oldest is more serious about it.  She likes running and typically races well but she also worries and puts pressure on herself sometimes to do well.  She does this in other areas- not just running.  I tried to reassure her with talks about doing your best and not worrying about what others will run.  Run your race.

Saturday morning we headed to the race.  It was a one mile which was actually put on by their school and all proceeds went to the cross country and track team.  The majority of runners were kids (or parents with their kids) so it was a fun atmosphere.  While my plantar fasciitis is improving it is definitely not in one mile racing shape if you know what I mean.  I had planned to pace with my oldest daughter and then afterwards my son (separate heats for men and women).  Abi’s fastest mile time was a 7:21 (which she ran a few weeks ago during a 5k) so she was hoping for something in the lower 7’s.

When the gun went off we quickly settled into a rhythm.   The pace was more around her 5k pace.  I have raced 5 and 10k’s with my daughter and she generally does well with pacing.  I tried to let her know that she was doing great but actually running closer to an 8 minute pace- not 7 like she said she wanted. This did not go over well and I quickly learned that she was struggling.  She was not in a good mood and the next few minutes were rough.  There was even one point that she just stopped running for a few seconds.  I looked at her said, “This is a one mile race. You can do this.” (She has run 5 and 10k’s without stopping- what was going on?) 

She ended up finishing several seconds from her PR with a 7:35.

As soon as we finished I had to hurry over to the guys race so that I could run with my son.  He was pretty worn out by the time we got to the starting line (over a half mile away) so we really didn’t plan that out well.  He is completely non-competitive right now when it comes to running but he wanted to do this race since it was for his school.  We jogged our way to the finish line and he was more than happy to sit and rest under a tree when we were done.

After we finished my daughter came up to me looking very distraught .  She said she was sorry for her bad attitude while we were running together.  I told her was ok- it’s over now.  But she wanted more.  She was not at peace.  She asked if she could do it again and try harder.  She knew she had given up and didn’t give it her best effort.  That leaves a bad feeling in your stomach.  I shook my head and told her she couldn’t.  You get one shot at a race. There will be another race at another time but you just get one shot at this one.”  

It’s a hard lesson to learn.  We talked more about it once we were home and settled.  I told her that all sports can get hard sometimes.  The good things in life usually require a lot of work.  We miss out on a lot of opportunities when we don’t put ourselves out there and try our best.  I brought up some examples of things we’ve done as a family or been able to enjoy as a result of hard work and she understood.  I don’t know when Abi’s next race will be but I have a feeling that whenever she decides she’s ready to get back out there she will have a better attitude and give it her all.

What are some race lessons you’ve learned the hard way?

Do you ever race with your kids?  What do you do when the race doesn’t go as planned?

14 thoughts on “Lessons learned the hard way from racing

  1. Oh man, hate that for her. I always put way too much pressure on myself for races and it sort of sucks the enjoyment right out. I’ve been trying to do so much better about it. But it can be hard when you know that you’ve raced at x pace before. One thing I did learn last year at Soaring Wings then at CASA was that sometimes you just go with it. You don’t hold back. And because I let myself go and go hard, I hit a 10+ min PR. But then at the same time I know that’s not always going to happen. And you have to be OK with that.

    1. Yes, I can think of times when I was too conservative and afterwards it hit me that I probably could have let myself go a little. Soooo many mental games… 🙂

  2. That is still such an incredible time for her!!!! Running can be confusing too…some days are just off and that can be on a race day and there is really nothing you can do about it but make the best of it!
    You have so many cool races in your area!!!! My kids are getting ready for their first 5k in less than 2 weeks!!! Unfortunately my youngest was in the hospital for 4 days with a kidney infection and sick for a bit longer so that has really thrown off her training! I am slowly building her back up and she is at 1.5 now. I know she can totally finish it but she wanted to be better prepared. This week I am hoping to get to 2 miles and then do a 2.5 mile run early next week with them. This sickness just really took a lot out of her!

    1. Thanks! The racing scene for kids and families has definitely improved as to a few years ago. I hope the 5k goes well! I’m anxious to hear about it. 🙂

  3. I think it’s awesome both of your kids got out there and did it, even running a whole mile at such a young age can be tough for a lot of kids (I used to coach youth cross country and track, so I know). It shows a lot of maturity that they can do it. Not hitting a PR is a lesson too bc not every race will be a PR especially when you’ve been running and racing for awhile. I think your daughter did great getting out there despite the nerves and hopefully next time she won’t worry about it as much and just run.

    1. You are right! Every race is definitely not going to be a PR. Important lesson to learn at a young age. Makes the PR’s really mean something! 🙂

  4. Definitely a good learning experience. So many lessons to learn through running…lessons that can be carried over into our lives in so many ways! You know, I think I’ve surely learned this lesson about giving my all in situations when I really want something. This is particularly true with races where I want to do my best. However, over the years, this pressure I’ve put on myself to run my fastest and always do my best in everything has held me back from trying things at times(races, writing, opportunities I never would have experienced..). The greatest lessons I’ve learned recently with running is the lesson of being able to start where I am and enjoy what I’m doing. Lately, it hasn’t been so much about giving my all as it has been about taking pressure off of myself to get started, try things, and find joy in doing things I love and being okay with being where I’m at right now…without comparing myself to my old self or others. I’ve learned these lessons the hard way in the sense that I’ve seen what I’ve kept myself from …opportunities I’ve missed out on because I was too scared or proud to just take the steps forward because I was too worried about comparing myself to my best or idea of perfect. I’ve had to learn that sometimes, we just go forward and put ourselves out there with “good enough” for now. And our “good enough” often leads to some amazing things that we never would have tried otherwise. This has been true for me with racing lately. I’m not where I was but I’ve found that there is a different kind of joy in racing for fun and not only for time.

    I’m excited to race with my kids more here in the next few months! Excited to pick your brain on this for my November race with N.

    I’m typing here in a hurry so I’ll probably be back for a better comment and find that this one makes no sense but I have no time to reread it. Congrats to Abi for putting herself out there. So glad you had this time with her to talk about racing and life and the lessons along the way!! Love this post Tia!

  5. That’s such a great learning experience for Abi. Not getting what you want is the best way to build resilience. Learning to fail is learning to live because no one has a 100% success rate in life. It’s being able to shrug off those disappointments that can really build character.

  6. Hard lesson to learn but valuable experience. Running is so mental (as we all know) and it can be hard when we let that get the best of us. Still an incredible time and I’m sure you are very proud. I think it is great how active you and your family stay TOGETHER (so inspiring).

  7. That is a tough situation, for your daughter and you. You are an awesome parent! The next race, she will do a lot better. Sometimes a race like this needs to happen in order to get better.

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