Accepting my race times, for better or for worse

by Kim on May 30, 2013

Thanks for your encouraging words on my 10K recap post yesterday! I’m already feeling a lot better about what happened after taking a few days to process it, reveling in the ridiculousness of the whole thing, and doing some get-over-myself yoga.

My little pity party made me realize something about myself, though: now that I think about it, I’m hardly ever happy when I cross finish lines.

finish line 2^not me

I always have at least one complaint (and usually closer to 10): my time, the weather, the hills, inadequate training, poor hydration, bad choice of gear, etc. When I recount races to other people later, I make sure to include all the ways I could have done better and the reasons the race conditions weren’t ideal. I have a hard time accepting compliments because I assume people are just being nice.

What gives?? Why can’t I just be happy that I did my best, under whatever circumstances? Why don’t I ever have a smile on my face in my finish line photos?

race shot 2I actually remember thinking “I should probably smile,” knowing the camera was right there, but it just didn’t feel natural at the time. Wah wah, right?

I’m not happy with the “I’m a Type A perfectionist” excuse. That is true, but it doesn’t mean I should be letting it beat me down all the time.

The one time I can remember feeling unequivocally happy was after my first postpartum half marathon last fall. It was a tough race—SUPER hilly, cold, and boring—and I had plenty of things to nitpick, but all I really cared about was going from one side of that finish line to the other. Afterwards, I remember being ecstatic to the point of tears. Even when I met up with my friend Katie and found out she’d somehow run a 1:38 (after even more recently giving birth), while I was WELL over 2 hours, I couldn’t have been happier.

But after every other race, even my first (and only) full marathon, I remember feeling deflated. Disappointed in my time and effort, and very generous about my distribution of the blame—on everything and anything.

So I decided to brainstorm: how can I do better about appreciating my accomplishments, regardless of the details, and accepting my race times for better or for worse?

Here’s what I came up with:

–Identify things I did well.

I felt well trained for this 10K. I did my speedwork and learned how to run fast(er). During the race, I handled the leakage situation as best I could and didn’t let it totally derail me. I pushed through the tired moments and finished stronger than I ever have before.

Oh, and I had fun.

–Identify things I learned.

I learned that I have to be careful about my hydration plan, especially for a night race. I need to start hydrating earlier (like a day or two before) so I can ease up right before race time. I also need to schedule my porta-potty trip as close to the start time as humanly possible, and NEVER WEAR LEGGINGS again.

Also, dress for 20 degrees warmer than it is. Why do I always ignore that rule? Generally, if you’re not cold at the starting line, you’re probably doing it wrong.

–Isolate a positive memory and latch onto it.

As I mentioned in my recap post, there was that one beautiful moment when we turned onto a bike path and got a perfect view of the capitol building lighting up the night sky. It was total bliss. At that moment, I was thrilled to be running that race. And when I look back on this race in the future, that’s the moment I want to come to mind.

–Monitor my race story.

I need to pay attention to what I’m telling people when they ask how the race went, and how I’m telling the story. For one thing, I need to practice leading with the positives—the perfect running weather, the beautiful course, the awesome crowd. I’m allowed to mention the pitfalls, but only briefly, and in a light-hearted way. Forcing myself to talk about the race this way will, hopefully, force my brain to recognize and remember it this way.

–Look ahead.

The first thing I did when I got home from the race was hop on the computer and start researching upcoming 10Ks. Booyah! There’s one in two weeks! Super small, $20 entry fee. And now I have an actual 10K PR to beat! Pretty tempting… (I’ll be the girl in the shorts and Depends!)

What tricks have you used to get over a less-than-stellar race?

Do you smile when you cross the finish line?


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Liz July 17, 2013 at 10:07 am

For some reason we are always hard on ourselves. The bottom line is you did great. Congrats on the finish. :)
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Sarah @ PickyRunner May 30, 2013 at 10:54 am

Every race is a learning experience. I do the same thing and get down on myself about races, but the only way they will get better is if we do something about it. For me, the biggest lesson is that when I’m having fun, I have a better race. I enjoy it more, and I run faster. It’s a tough one to internalize but for me, it’s the most important.
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Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama May 30, 2013 at 9:31 am

Great post! I think most runners tend to focus on the ‘what ifs’ instead of savoring the race experience. The first thing out of my mouth after my two marathons was ‘I know I can run faster next time.’ Even when I ran what I consider my all-time race best at a half marathon, I was still thinking, I could’ve gained an extra second here or there. The arrival of my girls has helped to change my perspective. I don’t have the same time (or energy!) to devote to training and racing, so PRs are few and far between these days. Instead, I’m relearning to love running simply for running.


Kim May 30, 2013 at 10:09 am

Very good point! It’s easy to get sucked into the competition and forget that it’s all, technically, just for fun. :) I’m definitely not training as hard these days anymore either.


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