Next Time

Posted by Filed Under: Learn to Run, Running Tips

On Sunday October 1, 2006, I ran my first marathon. The experience was exhilarating, exhausting, intense, fun, and rewarding. My family was there and supported me throughout the race and, without them, my finishing would have been in doubt. I struggled for the second half of the marathon (the hard half) and the positive words, cheering, and love coming from the crowd literally pushed me through to the end. To all the people (my family included) who spent the better part of a beautiful fall Sunday cheering on thousands of strangers—I wholeheartedly thank you.

Upon crossing the finish line—along with feeling happy, sad, excited, exhausted, thankful, and invigorated—I started thinking about what I could have done differently, better, or more completely to make my marathon experience even better. I guess it’s just my competitive nature; I am not easily satisfied with a performance. And, true to my nature, at the finish line I was all ready focused on what I could improve upon, what I could do better next time, and where I could squeeze in another mile or ten of training. With that, I came up with a few ‘next time’ items …

Next time I’ll…

…get to the starting line earlier. I started way back in the pack and I think I expended a lot of extra energy (that I could have used later) weaving my way through slower runners. Also, I found it difficult to get into a good running rhythm because of this.

…try not to worry about splits early in the race. This is a long run and the first few miles are congested and busy—I should have realized that my early splits would be slow. Seeing a slow first mile, I panicked and took off too fast.

…enjoy the crowds more. It wasn’t until later in the run that I realized the importance of the spectators pushing me on. I should have smiled more and enjoyed the experience.

…run with others during training. I ran alone during all of my training runs. I think running with a club or group would have provided more support and better training. Running alone is nice sometimes, but I think on occasion it is important to run in group.

…run more in preparation. I trained hard and I ran my long runs, but I think I could have been more consistent with my efforts. Establishing a solid training plan early would have definitely benefited me in the end.

…race like I train. During my training runs I was never overly concerned about pace or speed yet I consistently met my goals and pace times. I instinctively knew how hard to push to achieve my goals. However, during the race I was acutely aware of my pace—mile by mile—and I think that had an overall negative effect.

…be better prepared for “The Wall.” I always felt like I would never hit the wall. I believed that my training would get me through the race. When I did hit the wall, I didn’t know how to react or what to do. Because of this “THE WALL” crushed me both mentally and physically—I was able to battle through and finish, but I could have done better.

I make no illusions about what drives me, I do not do anything half way, I give my all. I would never say that I run purely for “fun”—- although I do have fun running. I run to push my limits, to see what I can do, and to stoke my competitive fire. And, when I feel my best is not good enough, I start to think about next time.

What do you do when your best isn’t your best?

  1. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on October 11th at 6:46 am

    I’ve learned something new at each of my marathons; the first thing that I wrote at Run to Win was about marathons lessons learned. I have since run a few more marathons since then and learned a few more things, but it is all about fine tuning and learning what works best for you until you get to that perfect race (again and again and again…)

    One day maybe I’ll learn that there is no perfect race and that I should stop trying; that’s a lesson that I hope it takes me a long time to learn though.

  2. Nancy Toby on October 11th at 8:16 am

    This is exactly how they suck you in and get you addicted. I recommend taking up knitting or skydiving or something else less demanding.

  3. Aaron Engelsrud on October 11th at 8:24 am

    How about “speed knitting”? 🙂

    BTW, too late, I’m all ready an addict and I see no signs of recovery.



  4. Benoit on October 11th at 9:22 am

    I like to meditate before a run. Visual it before doing it mentality as worked for me in the past. If I will ever do a marathon, I will probably be at the starting position very early, sitting down, going through the run in my head all the way to the finish line where I will be greeted by something or someone, my gift to me for doing this crazy thing. 😉

  5. bex on October 11th at 9:46 am

    I hear you on getting closer to the front. I started in the middle of my first marathon earlier this year, and I fell hard, gashing my right knee, in the first mile trying to navigate my way through the crowds.

  6. Dawn - Pink chick on October 11th at 12:06 pm

    Aaron, congrats on doing your 1st Marathon. For me finishing my first, even though I was the dead (literally) last runner was still an awesome experience and I smile when I think about it. They say you never foget your first.

    As with any race we often learn what works and oh yeah what doesn’t. Your “next time” list is great. I too hope to have a “next time” but haven’t just decided when yet.

  7. Joe Ely on October 11th at 3:39 pm

    Aaron, congrats on the first marathon! I did my fifth on the same day…and every race has its lessons. You capture some important ones here…keep thinking and talking. You’ll learn more.

    Then, the onion peels back…and you learn another lesson next time.

    It never ends…which makes it good.

  8. iliketoast on October 11th at 8:06 pm


    You fine tuning points all make alot of sense. I have never run a marathon the same way twice. They have all been different for me and believe it is important to plan your run but also to know that a plan only gets you to the start. You will still have to adapt as the race throws out it’s challenges.

    Best of luck on number 2.

  9. Jank on October 11th at 8:23 pm

    Congratulations! Good lessons all around.

  10. Pete on October 11th at 10:27 pm

    Hi Aaron,

    I see you ran TCM. Wasn’t that a blast? I also ran it, for the second time. The one reason I went back? Easily, it’s the fanatic crowd support that they’ve got going up there. Other communities grudgingly accept that they’ve got to hand over their city for half a day to some runners. TCM neighorhoods embrace the event and get out there, sometimes 5-10 deep screaming support at you.

    Like you, I’m very glad that TCM was my first marathon two years ago.

    You can read my short report at:

    Good luck for #2. Once you start, you can’t stop.

  11. My marathon… at on October 12th at 8:42 am

    […] Read the whole article here. […]

  12. Aaron Engelsrud on October 13th at 6:29 am

    Thanks to everyone who left comments and support. Reading comments like all of these are why I have come to love the running community so much. Always positive and helpful.