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I finished the New Orleans Rock and Roll Marathon in 3:36:47. I missed qualifying for Boston by 1 minute and 47 seconds!
Even though I didn’t qualify, I’m not overly disappointed with my performance. I set a personal record -beating my previous best time by 7 minutes. I think that the lessons I learned during this race will be helpful as I continue to reach for my personal best in the future.
If you take the time to analyze your race experience you’ll find valuable lessons to apply to future marathons and even other challenges in life.
“Every time I fail, I assume I will be a stronger person for it. I keep on running figuratively and literally, despite a limp that gets more noticeable with each passing season, because for me there has always been a place to go and a terrible urgency to get there.” -Joan Benoit Samuelson
Maybe you’ll be running a half or full marathon this spring. Here are three essential marathon strategies.
One of my mistakes during this marathon was not being prepared to pace myself. I was planning on running with the 3:30 pace group. Unfortunately there weren’t any pace groups to be found. I spent the first 5 miles thinking that the pace group was ahead of me so I ran faster to try and catch up with them. That was a mistake that came back to bite me around miles 15-18.
The lesson here is . . .
You want to pace yourself conservatively during the first half of the race. Don’t go out too fast in the beginning of the race. Starting out too fast means that you’ll burn through your stored energy too quickly and your muscles will fatigue faster, leaving you feeling tired and depleted toward the end of your race. If you have more energy toward the end you can always speed up.
Have a strategy or mantra in place to help you when you hit the wall. (I hit the wall at mile 16). Realize that if you hang in there the feelings of wanting to quit or to keep walking will pass.
- Have a couple of good mantras “in the bank” to pull out if you need it. If you plan on listening to music have a few “go to” songs that always fire you up. Distract yourself by looking at the scenery, other runners, or spectators.
- If you have friends or family there to cheer you on in the race you can encourage them to be at the spot where you might need the most encouragement. If you don’t have anyone along the course to cheer you on, just pretend that every spectator is there for you. If someone cheers or says “looking good,” acknowledge them with a smile and thank you. Internalizing their support can give you confidence.
- Finally, don’t be afraid to give yourself a pep talk. One of the things I always tell myself is that I’ll feel the same physically tomorrow whether I give it my all or give a half-hearted effort. However, I’ll feel very different emotionally as a result of a great effort or sub-par determination.
The third essential marathon strategy is to have a smart fueling system. This should be the system that you developed and practiced during your training. You never want to try something new on race day.
I recommend using the fueling protocol and products from Hammer Nutrition. I’m not going to go into detail about that system here because we’ve covered that on past podcasts like “Don’t Make These Fueling Mistakes” and “Interview with Steve Born.”
Carry the fuels that you’ll need during the race with you. Some races offer 2-3 stations with gels, but you’re not always guaranteed anything other than water. I carry the fuels I’ll need during a race and drink water from the aid stations.
The first few feet of the water station will also be the busiest. Aim to take fluids from the middle section and make eye contact with the volunteer that you want to grab from. When you get your fluid make sure that you keep moving forward until you’re out of the traffic.
And Finally . . .
Enjoy the experience! Choose to embrace the moment and learn the lesson instead of complaining and being negative.
When you cross that finish line see yourself as the winner you are. Savor that happy exhausted sensation, but don’t stop. Keep moving forward physically and metaphorically. Move forward, accept your medal, drink some fluids, refuel the body, and walk, walk, walk. It will help you recover more quickly.
Even if you perceive the marathon as a negative experience right now, you may be surprised to find that it takes on greater meaning as time goes on. Sometimes those “failures” in life actually teach us the most and drive us forward to eventually reaching our goals. I like this quote by Coach Jenny Hadfield:
“I made a pact with myself to never complain about an event I’ve successfully finished. No matter what my finish time or pace, I will cross the line with a pocket full of gratitude. Records are meant to be broken, but those moments are far and few between. Every adventure offers an opportunity to evolve, explore, and celebrate life. And that is the gift that keeps on giving.”
Quick Tip: Pace calculator at Runner’s World
This tool will help you predict your finishing time based on a past race and get an idea of what your training paces should be. http://www.runnersworld.com/cda/trainingcalculator/0,7169,s6-238-277-279-0-0-0-0-0,00.html