Greetings from Michigan, where we are enjoying the lake and a newly walking 10 month old. Yikes!
It has been nearly two weeks since I ran (or should I say, “attempted to run”) Grandma’s Marathon. It was a pretty awful experience all around. I knew by mile 5 that my race goals were out the door. By mile 13 I was calling Rock to let him know that I was going to DNF. At mile 16 I tried to call him and it didn’t go through. I cursed him for the next three miles as I ran to the next drop bus. I got to the bus and texted a friend to let her know I was’t going to finish. The text failed to go through and that was what lead me to decide to finish however I possibly could.
Let me be honest and tell you that there were three other factors that made me want to finish. I had a drop bag at the end that held one of my favorite pair of running shorts. I didn’t want to lose them. Grandma’s doesn’t give you a shirt at the expo, you earn it when you cross the finish. Finally, I wanted that damn medal. I trained, I paid a boat load for a hotel room, and I left my baby girl at home for the weekend. I was getting that damn medal!
So what happens when you have a crappy race? First of all, it blows. I called Rock on the course to let him know that I wasn’t going to finish and he had some great advice for me.
You probably know that I am a certified running coach. But I likely haven’t mentioned that Rock is also an RRCA certified running coach. Together we run a sports training business. We train young athletes but we also have trained hundreds of runners together over the years.
When I told him what was going on, the first thing he mentioned was that this is humbling. He has been there himself. We’ve watched athletes fall apart in races or end up unexpectedly injured during a race. It is absolutely humbling. It certainly isn’t the way you foresee a race going. It isn’t what you train for. And in fact, it somewhat pisses you off that you trained that hard and that long, only to have this experience.
Next, he reminded me of some sage advice that Dean Karnazes gave a friend of mine after an ultra-marathon gone bad. DNF=Did Nothing Foolish. If you are hurting, or if it isn’t meant to be, it is wiser to stop when you need to, than to push on. Many a runner has been in similar conditions and has pushed themselves to the brink, only to end up with serious injuries including heat stroke.
When I knew that I was going to press on, I realized it was going to be a tough finish. But I knew that I wasn’t putting myself in harm’s way. I could drop out at any moment. In fact, when they raised the black “Extremely High Risk,” flags I assumed I was going to be informed that the race was closed.
What are your options when a race goes downhill?
•If you know that your health isn’t in danger, you can keep going. Assess your situation. Are you in danger? Can you keep moving?
•Slow down, ignore your GPS and just finish the best way that you can. For me, cramping set in and I had to walk, a lot. At that point I was okay with it. My only goal was to finish. Sometimes we have to let go and forget what our original goals were and be okay with that.
•Stay hydrated and stay fueled. Try to make the the best of the situation. Enjoy the crowd support. (I gave a shout out to a woman with a sign that said “Giving Birth Is Harder Than This” and it was also a great reminder!). Misery loves company. Chat with a fellow struggler and work together as a team.
•If your health is at risk, you have nothing left to give, or you are just plain over it, go ahead and get on that bus. There is nothing wrong with calling it a day. Don’t be a hero. Know your limits.
•Give your body some time to rest and recover. And I mean A LOT of time. Let your muscles repair. Let your mind recover from the trauma of a crappy race. Let your body forget about the training it just went through. And let your body fall back in love with running.
•Then you can reassess. Do you want revenge? Are you over it? Don’t make any rash decisions. Figure out what is best for you.
It is important to remember that running is tough. It takes a toll on both your body and your mind. Most runners need a break after a race; even a disappointing one. Take some time and enjoy life and cross training. Distances like the marathon will never be tamed and it is important to keep that in perspective. You can train for months in the smartest and most efficient way, but the distance and the sport will always have a leg up on you.