This past weekend, I ran my fifth full marathon: the Charlottesville Three Bridges Marathon. It was what I had trained months for, slated as my “A” fall race and was ready to conquer as my first Boston-qualifying race.
Well…that didn’t happen.
You see, on December 2, I not only failed to break my current Personal Record of 3:43:18, but I didn’t even make the mark of a Sub-4 hour marathon – a feat I had accomplished in my very first marathon, Richmond, more than a year ago. I would be lying if I said that I took this performance in stride but with running, and particularly even more with marathons, it’s important to remember that sometimes things don’t work out the way we want, but that doesn’t mean we should give up.
You see, my 4:03:00 time (and yes, that is correct, I didn’t let any extra seconds get away from me) doesn’t define me as a marathoner. Or as a runner. Or even, as a person. On that cold, sunny morning, that 4:03:00 meant something totally different: it meant that I had the courage to finish what I started. As all hope drained from my time goal, I had to constantly reassess what exactly I was doing out there, running back and forth (it was a 4 loop course, not even kidding). Yes, there were definitely moments I wanted to quit – at mile 22, my Garmin does not lie when it says it was a 12 minute mile – and that’s because I sat down on the guard rail and silently sobbed for more than four minutes. But, with each setback (foot cramp, feeling of desperation or walk through at a water stop) I performed a self-check: was I actually injured? Or was it just my ego taking a beating?
Each time, I soldiered on.
As I set back on that final loop, I had to stop and walk more than once. My Garmin data looks like that of an incredibly erratic person; with everything from several sub-8 miles to a handful of double-digit ones. It just wasn’t my day…whether it was my lingering cold, the lack of energy (from myself and/or from spectators – this experience has certainly taught me I am more of a “big race” person) or just some case of stars not aligning in some universe far, far away…when I crossed the finish line, I had to just let it go.
Race results may not define us, but the way that we learn from them, well – that’s a different story.
What’s your experience with not reaching goal time? How important is racing to you in running? With so many things that can go wrong in a race, how do you make the very best out of any race? Please share in the comment section below.