Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Truth About Bad Races

Sunday I ran a slow half marathon. I'll get to describing it, another day, but it was my worst race in a year and a half. I've had some bad races, but this one I tried to taper and rest up for, and it did not work.

A week and a half ago, I ran a 32:27 10,000 on the track. Easily my second fastest 10k by a mere 15 seconds. Considering I ran close to four miles leading and it was a little cool out it was a really good race for me. However the depths of my feelings about that race and especially about the half marathon are not so simple.

1. On the surface I am happy to be healthy and give a good effort. 32:27 is not terrible. That is better than most humans will ever run. Same for my half marathon, 5:51 pace for over 13 miles is still netted me 33rd out of 1585 people.
2. I am disappointed I did not PR. Training has been going well and I thought I would PR despite having to lead, the slight wind, and the cool temperatures. I am in great shape but it was not to be, similar to last week. In fact 7s/5k off my personal record was the same. For the half marathon I'm disappointed I didn't even come close to a PR.
3. Considering how the race was run and my continuing tapering am in great shape! I am on the platteau that happens just before a significant PR. It is just everything (taper, fitness, weather, pacing, race morning routine, sleep the week of, etc.) falling into place. I wrote that last bit before my half marathon. It hurts a little to read those words after such a bad race. However, my racing season is done, and I am taking a rest. Despite not setting a PR from my great shape.
4. I hate myself for not running faster.

Expressed in a picture that emulates a pond with the deep dark depths of emotion:
The Truth About Bad Races
Maybe it's not healthy, but I think on some mental level to reach the highest performance levels of about anything, a person has to be deeply unhappy with the way things are. Using the example of a race, if I run a slow race, and I was not unhappy, what would prevent me from running a slow race every time I race? I realize that hate is a strong word, it is likely the wrong word, perhaps deeply dissatisfied is a better phrase. However, I kept hate in because while it is a tiny tiny part of competitive running, a feeling after maybe 5-15% of the worst races it is a factor, still in those cases, it is a factor. Additionally, on a deeper level, in almost all races there is a dissatisfaction about not doing better. Only two races leave people with the feeling that they could have done or needed to do no better: Olympic gold medals and world records. That said, even after world records the new holders often say they think it is possible to go faster or higher or farther.

The feel good epilogue is age. Eventually everyone slows down. I see older runners all the time who are certainly not setting personal records any more. The thought of getting slower every year is not encouraging. I avoid thinking about it most of the time. However, Meb and Michael Wardian and Carlos Lopes are three examples of guys who clearly ran most of their best races in their late 30s. Regardless, I'm looking at about 12 years or less. At my rate of development the last few years, that's cutting it close. I will have more bad races, you could say that to succeed more I need to fail more frequently to show that I am putting myself out there.

Fail, learn, repeat. Do that enough and find success.


  1. Sorry to hear about your half marathon. If you'll recall, you had a DNF within the past 18 months (I think this is the timeframe) so look at this as maybe being the "second worst race." Also, it is disturbing to see that you "Hate yourself for runnning so poorly." Don't be so hard on yourself. It would serve you better to perceive the outcome more like "I'm disappointed that I ran so poorly," or "I wish I had run better." There is really never a reason for hating oneself - unless of course you kill someone interntionally, or whatever!

    You will learn as you go through life that it is chock full of disappointments and the way you talk to yourself has a major affect on your self-confidence and emotional well-being.

    Just some advice to live on.

  2. The WI Governor had a dinner today (National Day of Prayer)& the speaker was an x-drug user. She quit drugs when she met Jesus. Anyhow, she said sucess is getting up one more time than you fell down. How true. Mom


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