Are these attitudes and behaviors causing you to fall short of your goals?
At this point, you may be smack-dab in the middle of training for a fall marathon, just starting cross-country or otherwise aiming to put a nice exclamation point on most people’s favorite racing season with a new personal best of some sort. The following attitudes and behaviors are some of the most common ways people fall short of their goals well in advance of the races themselves—along with strategies to combat them, should you stubbornly insist on reaping the positive rewards of your labors.
1. Scale Back Your Goal After A Subpar Workout
If you are hoping to run a 3:30 marathon, have consistently done mile repeats in the 7:00 range and a half marathon in under 1:40, and then struggle to hit an 8:15 pace in your first long marathon-pace run, you can shoot for 3:45 instead … or you can accept that subpar workouts happen to all of us during even the most productive training cycle and put it behind you until next time.
2. Treat Your GPS Device As Infallible
If your GPS watch suggests that you’re running 4:50 pace or 7:10 pace and it feels more like 6:00 pace, curse yourself for your inability to pace yourself and give up for the day … or you can recognize that even the best GPS devices can be thrown by a number of factors, especially early in a run, and go by feel in these situations instead. Lots of GPS fans race much better with their gadgets at home.
3. Set An Upper Limit For Your Recovery-Run Pace
After giving lip service to the idea that recovery pace is whatever it takes to feel better at the end rather than at the beginning, you become frustrated with how slowly you’re moving after a hard 22-miler the day before … or you can stop playing fast and loose with the term “recovery,” leave the watch on the table, warm up to the effort with a shuffling jog and finish with a smile on your face.
4. Remain An Inflexible Slave To The Seven-Day Calendar Week
If you have a tempo run, a track session and a long run scheduled in a week, and weather, work or illness scuttle the planned sequence, pack all three efforts into the weekend to prove how disciplined you are … or you can simply wait until you’re physically and otherwise ready to run hard again, regardless of what day it is.
5. Use Race-Conversion Charts To Judge Yourself As Harshly As You Can
Even though the various popular online and offline one-distance-to-another conversion tables all disagree with each other, figure out a way by which you obviously lack either enough endurance or sufficient speed … or you can use these tools as they are intended—as rough guidelines to help you structure, say, 10K workouts around when your background is that of a mile/two-mile specialist. These are not charts to convert one currency to another.
6. Don’t Allow For Off-Days, As This Is Just Excuse-Mongering
If you don’t perform as well in a race as your past races and workouts suggest that you could have, chalking this up to “one of those days” is just what losers do … or you can acknowledge that you do a lot more workouts than you do races, and that thanks to colds, bad weather and life’s unpredictable challenges, the chances of you feeling as great in any given race as you did in your best workout simply aren’t that great. Try to learn from these without obsessing over them.
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7. If You Have A Coach And Disagree With Something He Or She Says, Recognize Who The Boss Is
If your coach is older or faster than you or both, it’s best to remember that he or she is also much more experienced … or you can bring things back to reality and recognize that coaching is never a one-way stream of communication, and that you owe it to yourself to clear up any uncertainties or other problems before they get worse.
8. On The Starting Line Of Your Goal Race, Talk Yourself Into Just ‘Running For Fun’
Once you’re on the line and awash in nervous agitation, you can look around and remember that a race is just a celebration of being healthy enough to enjoy the experience … or you can remind yourself that testing yourself, your training savvy and your physical and psychological range out there is fun, too, and acknowledge that such “approach-avoidant” mental games are typical even in top athletes. It’s just a race, but make it a real race.
9. Unflinchingly View Your Results As A Reflection As Your Personal Worth
This is probably the single most efficient way to dissolve all enjoyment of running as a competitive activity. If you “fail” at running because you finish in a slower time than you might have if you hadn’t eased off the gas pedal or gone out too hard, then secretly telling yourself the lie that “If I can’t do this, I can’t do anything” amounts to tormenting yourself in a way that you would never torment another runner. Pithy as it sounds, there’s as much value in the experience of chasing a goal as there is in attaining it, and you don’t have to be 70 and beat up before you figure this out.
About The Author:
Kevin Beck has been a runner since 1984 and holds a personal best of 2:24:17 in the marathon. A former senior writer for Running Times, he is the editor of Run Strong (Human Kinetics, 2005), and has also written about sports and health-related topics for Marathon & Beyond, Men’s Fitness, The Roanoke Valley Sports Journal, and numerous other publications.