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?