Race results prove what you did do not what you can do. Read on for more wise words from...never mind. Those may be the best words I string together as it occurs to me that my race is weeks away and I’ll soon be held accountable for anything I say about post-race mindset.
The truth is we don’t give ourselves a lot of flexibility when it comes to feeling neutral about our race results. I have heard that mature runners achieve an indifferent state of post race impartiality but if any such runner is reading this, I encourage you to exist in your supreme state of being while we move on.
Most of us know that running is beneficial regardless of our performance. We probably realize that how we mentally process, proceed, and ultimately grow after the race experience is more important than how we perform. But runners not caring about their results? Sus. After a race it is normal to experience a rollercoaster of emotions and depending on how you perceive the experience, you could be left wondering why we do this ‘stupid’ sport anyway. Maturity is over-rated, amirite?
Personally, during most marathons this notion hits me before I finish as I tell myself “I am never doing this again” and unfortunately it has even become my mantra from mile 8-26 in some races (Chicago 2021).
But I’ll get back to “terrible" races. A term used by runners on my level of maturity to describe an event that did not exceed their expectations in terms of performance. Moving on...
Lets first talk about BQ’s (i.e. qualifying for another race), PR’s, and exceeding our goals. Some people may believe and could argue that this is why we run. If that’s you, I totally get it! The runners high that follows a good race, is better than you’d get from any pill, powder, or plant and it lasts longer.
Aiming to succeed is a fine intention. Success is the easiest way to validate our efforts (5 stars)! And we should celebrate all our perceived wins!
In this “good race” scenario, I’ve learned we should note what we did well but be careful with the new expectations we have for our elevated alter ego. Running is ruthless and after a well-run race, it tempts us to deserve a lesson in humility. My best advice after a good race, is to respect the run, give thanks, and stay hopeful about the future.
Now for the bad and ugly. Let’s say you’ve trained hard, gotten through the taper, and made it over the starting line in peak health only to end race day feeling defeated, disappointed, and disgusted with yourself.
The truth is feeling sorry for ourselves (I hope) is a common reaction to a terrible race. We all want to succeed and have defined “success” before we get to the starting line. Our expectations are usually somewhat calculated and sensible. Doing what we think we are capable of is great. Doing better than that is preferred. But just showing up doesn’t usually get the credit it deserves.
There are no guarantees in running. Sometimes it helps me to believe my responsibility to the sport goes beyond my performance. I’ll think “We don’t inspire others by proving what we can do but by demonstrating that we aren’t afraid to try knowing we might fail.” If we forget to respect fortitude and let results define us as runners, our goals limit us because running isn’t really about achieving our goals. It’s about growing into the people who can, and showing others how to do that.
We don’t have to be the fastest or most experienced runner to be respected. We don’t even have to cross the finish. In this sport, courage beats confidence and starting lines are superior. Maturity is questionable.