Sunday, March 25, 2012

What I Learned from the Races I Didn't Run

I am a runner. I like the feeling after a run, I like making training plans, and I like racing. This passion has not translated into completed races in quite some time. To get this post started let me recount some recent races I did not run.
Columbus Half Marathon - April 2010 

I hoped this would be my second half marathon and precursor to the full marathon in October. I ran more miles during this training bout than during my first, with a long run of 11 miles. At the time I had just started a research position at Ohio State. One of our community partners was hosting an event the same day as the race. I felt I should go to the community event instead. 

Cleveland Full Marathon - May 2011 

During the spring of 2011 I went through a lot of transitions. School to work, one job to another job and then to another. When I first arrived in December I had quite a lot of free time on my hands. Slowly my time was consumed by my graduate project, work, and various advocacy projects I was working on. I made it to a 13 mile long run, and again threw in the towel on marathon training. This time I threw in the towel to exercise completely. 

So now that you learned the stories of my "failed" races, here is what I learned from them ... 

There will be many more races. 

Training for a race causes me to fixate on a date. I focus on working hard some I can be successful on this specific day. When that date passes and I didn't complete my goal, I feel disappointing and empty. Then the sun rises the next day, I do a bit of googling and realize there are many more races to come, and much more time in my life to train for them. I am young, and I have many more opportunities to race. 

Its not you, its timing. 

Life is long, and growing up has many hurdles. Last year for me my hurdles included finishing school and finding a job. The year before that it was focusing on my research position.  I set my priorities and running just fell too far down the list. Sometimes even things I love need to be put further down the list. 

On another note, I believe you make time for what is important to you. If running is important to me, I need to choose to do less or certain things (advocacy work perhaps) and make room for running. To me, that means making a commitment to yourself, and activities that bring joy to your life and satisfaction.

You grew as a runner from the training, even without the race. 

The worst part about deciding to not run a race is the frustration you feel from putting in all the work and training "for nothing." Well, it isn't for nothing. Ilearned some much from both of my "failed" training attempts. I learned more about how my body responds to distance running. I learned how to effectively fuel, hydrate, and create training plans. I became more comfortable with double digit runs. Just because I didn't complete the races, I still progressed along my journey as a runner. 

Where to from here? 
Today I registered for two races, the Cleveland Half Marathon and Canton Half Marathon. As I continue to train and race I will bring with me the wisdom I learned from races in which I proudly crossed the finish line, and races I didn't even make it to the starting line.