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November 07, 2013

Tough Race? Have a Short Memory

Written by Dena Evans

tired_runner

 

At runcoach, we love celebrating the great race results that roll in after each weekend.  Although sensible training and belief can ensure that many race days proceed well, occasionally an off day or an unexpected turn of events affects us all.

 

One of the best ways to recover from a tough race is to have a short memory.  In every race, there are many things a runner can control:  clothing choices, food choices, pacing choices, fueling choices, and more.  Likewise, there are several factors that are beyond the control of the athlete:  the weather that may prove those clothing choices to be wise, the digestive system that may repudiate those food choices, the topography or wind that may prove those pacing choices to be miscalculated and events like an unexpected bathroom need or unseasonably humid weather which may show the fueling choices to be inadequate.  Because we really do not control quite as much on race day as we believe we do, it is unproductive to dwell on a disappointing result when it was significantly affected by one of these factors.

 

Certainly, we also know there are times when we weren’t quite as tough as we had envisioned, when the effort given seemed monumental at the time, but retrospect asks the question, “Was there more in the tank?”  In these times just as well, we need to avoid miring ourselves in what could have been and focus on what we plan to do next time out.

 

Because running is a singular pursuit, requires such strong task commitment both over the long training cycle as well as during a race effort, and the sense of accomplishment is so great when done well, runners often have a hard time divorcing our overall confidence from one or two tough days out of many.  But, we should.  Difficult things by definition would be easy if everyone could do them, and running long distance is most definitely a difficult thing.  Without minimizing the value of finishing a large goal or glamorizing the somewhat sanitized notion that the victory is only in attempting to begin, if you have trained well for a goal race, you have should have satisfaction for what you have learned about yourself along that journey.  A race completed, but not as fast as expected, is a race where the spirit of perseverance yielded a finishing result, which on a better day would be the type of commitment that will indeed lead to a PR.  If Murphy’s Law prevailed on a particular day, you have a great story and a lesson of resilience in the face of a gauntlet of unexpected difficulties.

 

Sometimes, the tough day has definite antecedents in choices we have made or training that trended less positively than we would have hoped leading in.  This is where the running log enters into the conversation.  When the dust is settled, an examination of any correctable factors is well in order, but always in the context of fact versus feelings.  Beating oneself up over situations that can neither be redone nor controlled next time is not productive.  Preparing to do battle with more training, a mellowed sense of humor, and a renewed sense of hope is crucial.  Carrying the burdens of a previous tough race is a heavy load.  If you are able to leave that load and focus on the opportunity ahead rather than the unrealized promise of a previous race, you have the opportunity for a much more positive experience.  Running toward a goal is always more productive than running away from a fear. Daily, practice focusing on the run at hand, the potential of the present day, and the joy or challenge of the experience presently underway.  Have a short memory, and in doing so, you’ll leave more room for new ones!

 

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