One lesson from a good and bad marathon

Marathons of last year for me were both good and bad and one lesson stands out above others. For both of these marathons my training was strong, I didn’t suffer injury along the way and was able to get to the start line fit and healthy. On both occasions I was confident of running a good race.

The lesson learnt is don’t be too quick to lose motivation and give up.

In the good marathon things went to plan from the start. I was able to comfortably run the pace I wanted to run and enjoy the race. When the marathon starts at 30km you need to be ready to give your best effort. On this day I was ready, motivated and for the last 10-12km when running became more difficult I was prepared to dig deep and give everything I had to get to the finish line.

In the bad marathon things didn’t quite go to plan from the start. The weather was unseasonably hot, I wasn’t prepared for this and didn’t adjust my pace early enough because of this. I was still able to run the pace I wanted to early in the race but by 30km when you need to dig deep I was cooked and didn’t have the motivation to dig even deeper. This lead to my legs cramping and I gave up and needed to walk. If I had adjusted my pace earlier and recognised that it wasn’t going to be the easiest day things may have been different.

Sometimes it seems easier not to adjust your pace and go through a tougher process to get to the finish line. I believe on this occasion I gave up too quickly, recognised it was going to be a tough day and didn’t give my best effort over the final quarter of the marathon.

In the good marathon I was buoyant as things were going to plan until 30km. Because of this my motivation was high and  I felt ready to give my best effort when I needed to most and was able to finish in a personal best time. The marathon is complicated race, nothing prepares you for the kilometres after 30km. Long runs in training give you the base to be ready but what happens in the final quarter of a marathon is mostly mental. It’s important to see it through to the finish and stay motivated even if things aren’t quite going to plan.

In my marathons I attempt to keep my pacing as consistent as possible, from 1km to 42km. The change in effort required to run the first to last kilometre is astronomical though. It is very easy to let self doubt creep into your mind as you tick over the kilometres, the key (easier said then done) is to keep believing and accept that the journey through a marathon is not going not to be easy.

Part of the process is knowing to sense you are giving up. It might be just some small thoughts that the pace is getting hard to hold. When things get tough as they in evidently and you recognise these thoughts it’s time to take a kilometre slightly slower, relax your breathing and get to the next aid station or kilometre marker. Stay strong, there is a finish line up the road soon and you’ll feel better once you are there.

In all races and especially marathons in the future I will try and teach myself to stay in the moment. Go through the process and do everything I can to keep self doubt out and give my best effort. The challenge the marathon presents in the final stages is why it’s so alluring. Disappointment for me comes from races where I know I gave up too quickly and could have done better if I was tougher mentally in the moments that mattered.

Is there a time when you recognise you’ve given up too soon?

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