We all have amazing races where all the hard work comes together, we feel great and things just click. Those are the races we all dream about.
Most of us have also had one of those races where things don’t go to plan. Either the weather, our stomach, undertrained/overtrained, poor race strategy, fueling or we have just one of those days.
Three weeks on from the Edinburgh Marathon (read my race recap here) and I still struggle to think clearly about it. I can’t help but think of the whole race as a failure, despite the fact that I ran a 5 minute PB. But I’m trying to use the following to use it as a springboard for my next race/goal.
Learn something (or a lot!)-> Look back at the race and critically evaluate what went well and what could have been done better. A bad race could highlight your weaknesses, exposing areas that you neglected – perhaps your strength work, fueling, pacing…whatever it is, work on it, develop, grow.
With hindsight, looking at the splits from the first half of the race, (and getting some feedback from others), I do think I went out too fast. The course is downhill for the first 10K, but running a 7.22 second mile was not smart. I’ve positive split too many marathons to know that it isn’t clever not to leave enough in the tank to get to that finish line.
I was also disappointed with my own mental strength during the latter stages of the race. At mile 18ish I stepped in a hole (during a trail section), and honestly, for a few minutes, wished that I’d twisted my ankle so that I could stop running. Wanted to step off the course injured. When I could feel my goal slipping away, I wanted so badly to quit. Having the backup goal of Chicago and London qualification kept me pushing even when I felt I had nothing left.
Recover -> It can be tempting to start working right away on the next goal, the next race, trying to make up for the bad one. Unless it was a 5K, you can’t just race hard again the following weekend. You need to give your body, and your mind recover, reset, recharge before ‘coming back’.
It takes time to process the feelings, it’s OK to grieve, to feel sad, disappointed, angry. You need to give yourself time… Not many people will get why you’re (especially if you run a PB/PR anyway but miss your main goal).
Use it as motivation -> Need some extra fire to work harder, train smarter or fight dirtier for the next race? Use the disappointment to fuel that fire.
After missing out on my sub 4 goal in the Paris Marathon, I put everything into training for the Berlin Marathon 5 months later. I didn’t miss a workout. And ran a 10 minute PB.
Do something new -> Perhaps that’s adding in more miles, strength work or stretch sessions. Or cross training (currently the swimming and cycling is proving to be the perfect post-marathon training to push myself, learn something new and enjoying the fact that you make progress far more quickly as a beginner!)
Turn off the watch for a while -> while training we focus so much on the miles, on the paces, on the reps that the fun of running can be lost somewhat by the end of a marathon cycle. Take off the watch (or at least turn the screen over!), run with friends, take part in local events and enjoy yourself!
Take advice from those wiser than you-> I know a lot of runners whose families/friends don’t get it. They’re told to calm down, that it’s only a race. It’s only running. And whilst sometimes that is actually what you need to hear. Other times you want sympathy, advice, tips for next time. There are a lot of people out there with more race/running/life experience than you/me, listen to their advice (even if it can be hard to hear).
I am taking on board is the fact that I’ve been spoiled in previous races I’ve done. I am aware that all of the marathons I’ve done prior to Edinburgh have been BIG races and therefore I have gotten used to some of the luxuries that go with that, like pacers and post-race massages! I had (wrongly) assumed that Edinburgh, as a sell-out big city race would have these – and that’s on me.
Additionally, although I think I could have run a sub 3.30 if all the stars aligned, it was a big jump from 3.44 to sub 3.30. Probably too big of a jump.
What I found hardest to deal with was the negative messages I received after Edinburgh, both on instagram (DM’s and on feed posts) but also on a snarking website. When people say/write the every worst things that you feel about yourself anyway, it reaffirms all the negative thoughts in your head.
(I don’t want this to come across as a ‘woe is me’ but the negativity has definitely impacted my feelings on Edinburgh and processing coming back from it. I always try to be 100% honest on here and I didn’t feel like I could write this post without mentioning it).