On The Run

Five Lessons From A Disappointing Race

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.

34 thoughts on “Five Lessons From A Disappointing Race

    1. It is… as tiny as it may seem, it certainly is! 🙂 “I just run for me” – I like that. I started running for all the goals – loved the idea of chasing goals but more and more I see that I am actually running for me. It keeps my life somewhat balanced.

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  1. Even though you are disappointed, you DID run faster than last year. I count that as a win. I agree with your assessments. You did some thinking and figured out what you can change. That’s a win also. When I really want to run a race hard, I am hurting by the end of the race. You definitely should not be comfortable. Good luck with your training!

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    1. Thank you 🙂 I was really so disappointed and I don’t think I would have made the same assessments just after the race in March. I needed the time to really figure it out and to see what the lessons were. The biggest one was the issue of pushing myself. I need to be hurting more at the end!

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  2. Great lessons! Running is a good teacher, isn’t it? I learn something new every time I race. I like what you said about being “too comfortable” when you run. A race is really when you push yourself outside the comfort zone!

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  3. Yes! All this is So true! I too have had good training cycles and then end up running a race in exactly the same time I ran it the year before. The worst is when you find out you were actuary slower…haha.. That’s been happening to me a lot lately! But yea, there are so many variables on race day so you can’t really compare one race to another. But hey, even if it was only 27 seconds it was 27 seconds in the right direction!

    Thanks for linking up!

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    1. I don’t know what I would have done had it been 27 seconds slower!! I may still not have gotten round to writing this post 😉 There really are so many variables. Let’s keep getting out there and enjoying the whole experience – and when the big wins come, we will truly appreciate them.

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  4. A PR is a PR whether it’s 1 second or ten. Doing better is always a good thing! But I understand being disappointed when you don’t meet your goal.

    I once had someone say that they’re always feeling good in a race. Which is fine — but it isn’t racing. Racing, by its very nature, IS about pushing yourself. People enter races for many different reasons, though, and as long as you know what your reason is, and you feel you’ve accomplished it, then it’s all good.

    And I have definitely had 30 second PRs. 🙂

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    1. Thanks Judy! I guess my expectations were so high because when I did the race last year I had only been running for 3 months. So I really felt that there would be so much more improvement! But writing this has helped – I must admit that I am that person who always feels good when racing! I enjoy it but I won’t see results unless I push myself out of my comfort zone a bit more. Time to start racing!

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  5. I was pretty frustrated after Bay to Breakers since I didn’t have as much fun as I thought I would. It was more chaos than anything else for the first half. Now my next race is a smaller local race, and I’m hoping I can enjoy this one. Not traveling might make things easier.

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  6. For a relatively “new” runner, you have already gained a lot of insight into this sport we call running 😉 Something I struggle with (and I’ve been doing this for 13 years LOL) is not knowing when to push or when to hold back. I’m always worried I will push too much and have nothing left to get me to the finish line. Also, I agree that no two races will ever be the same, so the whole PR thing is kind of a misnomer,…even the same race course will bring different results depending on the weather, the competition, and the runner’s overall fitness (or, like you realized, the state of their immediate training).

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  7. It sounds like you learned some important lessons from this race! Shorter races can be so challenging. I am not really comfortable pushing myself as hard as I need to in short races which holds me back at times. And like you said, you trained for a long distance race, not a short one- its much different!

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  8. YES YES YES. All of this. This is pretty much what happened in my Women’s 10K two weeks ago. I got a larger PR than you did, but it wasn’t what I wanted and although I know what I did “wrong”, it still didn’t sit well. You and I are similar in our training, I think, and speeds so it’s rejuvenating to see someone else go through the same

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    1. I remember being so shocked that I could have improved so little after a whole year of running. But you know what, we will get there, step by step. We just have to keep grabbing all these running lessons we are gaining. And one day a PR may even come when we are least expecting it! Wouldn’t that be something 🙂

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