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.