I ran my FIRST Half Marathon a month ago. It was phenomenal. As part of my training, I did the Gabs 10 km on the 25th March. It was at this race a year ago that I first ran 10 km without walking. I vividly remember coming through that Finish Line triumphant – smiling and dancing! So I was really eager to participate in the race this year to see how much I had improved. Well… I did run faster than last year…but only by 27 seconds! 27 seconds. I was so disappointed that I didn’t have a better time to show for all my training efforts this year. But I want to take a look at some of the critical lessons I gained instead.
1 – You are not going to PB every race. There are so many different variables that can affect performance in a race – bad weather, not getting enough sleep, inadequate nutrition, poor health, insufficient training, etc. That’s what makes it difficult to compare races, even the same courses. What was frustrating for me though was that everything seemed similar to last year’s race, the variables seemed to have stayed the same. The only difference was that I felt so much fitter and stronger. So I was convinced I would get a much better result. At least 2.7 minutes faster, NOT 27 seconds! With space and time I have come to terms with my disappointment. The more I learn about running, the more I realise that not every race will be my best race. And that’s okay. That is part and parcel of what it means to be a runner and it is quite naive of me to think otherwise.
2 – Training for short races and training for long races is different. When I did this race, I was in the middle of my Half Marathon Training so my focus was on endurance. The week before the race, I ran 15 km and the week after I comfortably ran 16 km which was the furthest I had run at that point. Coach Nicola wisely said “I can understand your disappointment that the time wasn’t even quicker as you have been putting in the hard work this year. However, you have to remember that your training has been to improve your endurance over a longer distance rather than speed. And you can see how that has paid off with how comfortable you felt running this race. I am sure if I had said you had to run an extra 3 km after this race you could have done it with no problem!” She was right. It is so important to train for the distance you are going to run. My expectation to run a speedy 10k after my whole focus had been on endurance was very wrong to begin with.
3 – I am too comfortable when racing. When running, my goal is always to finish strong and comfortable. That’s my mantra. But it seems I am finishing too comfortably! My husband always says when you are racing, it is not always important to finish comfortably. Crossing that Finish Line knowing you have nothing left to give is important. And to do that, you need to know your capacity and your limits. Training runs are a fantastic way to become more familiar with your abilities and know when you can push more and how long you can sustain a faster pace. My current race strategy of wanting to finish comfortably usually leaves me with a lot in the tank at the end. How much do I push myself when racing? And how much do I push myself on my speed workouts? Truthfully speaking, I could do more. I’m always too comfortable. I will need to start pushing my boundaries and testing my limits during training to see what I am truly capable of come race day.