I read a running quote recently that resonated with me:
Don’t be disappointed with the results you didn’t get from the work you didn’t do.
I have seen this disappointment many times with my high school cross country and track athletes. They pout at the end of a less-than-stellar performance. I often try to minimize the amount of moping that takes place after a meet. I often tell my disappointed runners to remember that specific moment of discouragement. Remember that feeling of knowing they could have performed better if only they had been more prepared. I tell them to use that as motivation to train harder so they will never have that feeling again.
Why is it so easy to forget that feeling weeks or even days later when it comes time to do a track workout on a frigid, windy day? Or the alarm goes off on Saturday morning, and you would rather stay snug in bed and hit snooze 10 more times than freeze your hiney off on a long, weekend run?
The only way you can achieve better results on race day is to make positive changes in your training. Miracles aren’t going to happen on race day if you haven’t put the in the work. You may have grandiose visions of an amazing race, but if your body isn’t ready, you cannot perform on will alone.
About three years ago, I raced in my first half marathon: The Bayshore Half Marathon in Traverse City, Michigan. I had a busy coaching season that spring, and I put my own training on the back-burner. As the dreaded race day loomed on the horizon, I admitted to myself that I was under-trained. I was extremely nervous the morning of the race because I knew I was out of shape. When the starting gun sounded, I went out conservatively, knowing I hadn’t run the necessary mileage to perform well. Around mile marker 8, I hit a wall. My longest run in my training was 9 miles, which I had only done once, so I knew I was in trouble. I struggled. I quickly went from 9:30 pace per mile to 10:30’s. I even ran close to 11:00’s near the end, which was significantly slower than my typical pace for long runs. I didn’t stop, even at a water station. I knew if I stopped, I wouldn’t muster up the energy to start again. My legs felt like lead pipes. I managed to shuffle across the finish line, which was an accomplishment in itself.
Did I pout? No. Was I disappointed? Not really.
I was disappointed that I hadn’t taken the time to train harder, but I wasn’t disappointed about my race. Once I knew I wasn’t ready, I set the realistic goal of finishing the race without stopping, even if I had to take it slowly. The performance was a direct result of my lack of training. I performed about how I expected, but I hurt even more than I had anticipated. The pain you feel when you race hard is different than the pain you feel when you are simply out of shape. In my opinion, the out-of-shape type of discomfort is the most miserable. That very day, I decided that running a half-marathon ill-prepared was something I would never replicate. I was determined to never feel that horrible again during a race.
Remember, you are in control of how you train, which directly affects your race performance. This is why I never tell my runners, “Good luck!” Luck has nothing to do with it. You train hard, you race hard. There is no short cut to greatness.
So, when it’s time for your run, and you peer out the window and see leaves swirling in the air from the gusts of wind, or the thermometer reads 25 degrees Fahrenheit, or you feel sluggish, or the ground is covered in a layer of fresh snow, what will you tell yourself? Think about the last disappointing race you ran and how you refuse to let that happen again. Think about your personal goals and how there’s no easy way to get there other than putting in the work. Make sure your goals are realistic too. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure.
Some days you will simply have a harder time getting out there and running than others. Even the most successful, elite runners have days where they would rather take the day off.
What do I tell myself on days I don’t feel like running? I remember the dreaded 8th mile marker at my first half marathon, and how lousy I felt. I will never allow myself to feel that way again. EVER. I’ll only feel discomfort from racing hard.
As I’m writing this blog, I know I still need to get in my run today. The weather is gloomy, windy, and unappealing. The voice inside my head says, “I’ll never race with out-of-shape, lead-pipe legs again.” Time to put on my running shoes.