A couple of situations arose last week which inspired me to write this post. The first one was the unfortunate high temperature last Monday, which forced hundreds of Boston marathon runners to exit the race prematurely. The second had to do with yesterday's Kourijima half marathon here in Okinawa, which due to humid and rainy weather conditions, also turned out to be a tough race for those who attempted to run it.
Perhaps because I had a personal interest in these races (my coaching partner and good friend Anna Boom was a participant in the Boston marathon, and one of my running clients was a participant in the Kourijima half marathon), their experiences touched me in a way that made me want to convey a message that race results are not the "be all and end all" of who we are as runners!
Setting personal best records and achieving age-place wins should not equate to success or failure, or determine whether we should continue to train and run more races, or just give up and throw in the towel. On the contrary, race results should be treated as part of the overall prize package - with the prize package comprising of all the intrinsic rewards that are earned throughout the training process, such as endurance and speed gains, improved body composition and improved health, greater confidence and self-discipline, or any goal that has been worked towards and achieved. These are the things that are worth reflecting upon and using as measures of performance.
My client, for example, spent the past two months training for the Kourijima half marathon, and her hard work has paid off. Her commitment to consistently following a progressively structured training plan without taking any short cuts has led to faster run times and greater endurance, and consequently an improved level of fitness and health. But more than that, my client has gone from being a relatively inexperienced runner with uncertain expectations, to being a stronger, more informed runner with a whole new level of confidence that is spilling over into all other areas of her life.
Would it make sense then to box up all of these positive outcomes and shelve them as obsolete because her race day goals were not met? Had the Kourijima half marathon course been less hilly, and held on a day with perfect weather conditions, I have no doubt that my client would have had a great race and set a new personal record. But that wasn't the case and even though my client accepts that she couldn't possibly have done any better than she did, given the conditions she encountered, there was still understandably some degree of disappointment.
My point is however, that while it's normal to feel defeated and discouraged, we should only allow those feelings to linger for a brief moment. Granted, I'll be the first to admit that on a bad race day, I might allow myself to wallow in self-pity a little longer than I should, but I'll try to take my own advice from now on and remember to focus instead on the previous months of training as a whole - if I can do that, then I can also learn to celebrate the training process and all of the small improvements made along the way. Better to do that than focus on the race results which can often lead to false disappointment.
In essence ladies, I recommend that we celebrate the progress we make as we continue to train, and view the races as simply opportunities to attempt to run a little faster or further than we would on a training run. Whether we succeed or fail at those attempts does not matter; what matters is that we tried, and that we can take comfort in the fact that we have come a long way since we first began training!
|Kourijima Half Marathon - rain and wind didn't steal this couple's joy;|
they finished and that's worth celebrating!