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The Runner: Forever an Optimist

Are you a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty type of person? As a runner, having a glass-half-full outlook on your goals and achievements can beneficial. Rarely do we have a perfect race, and PRs come at a premium. Races have thousands of people in them and only one person wins. There is always someone better, and there is always a faster time we would like to run.

So what do you do when you: don’t win, set a PR, beat your friend, finish the race, get sick, get injured (and the list goes on…)? You must be the forever optimist and see the good in the race that took months to prepare for.

I recently ran the Lehigh Valley Marathon. My goal was to run sub-2:45 in order to qualify for the Boston Marathon by 20 minutes. This would allow me to register first and secure a spot. At the very worst my goal was just to run 3:05 and qualify for Boston. My PR in the marathon is 2:36, and I ran a 1:10 half marathon in June. Qualifying for Boston should be no problem right?

It should have been easy. But it wasn’t.

A slip on a rock that caused the skin on the ball of my foot to tear back like a raw blister + badly cramping later in the race = a very disappointing time.

I ran 3:30, which means I will not run the Boston Marathon in 2014. (I realize most people would absolutely love to run a 3:30 marathon – but when you have goals to run much faster and you don’t reach them, it’s disappointing!) So what do I do now?

Many of my patients told me I was taking the disappointment very well and that it was nice to see me smiling about it. Here are a few thoughts on how I turned this huge disappointment into a positive:

  • The race was a good workout! No matter how bad the race, it was a great tempo run. In my case, I had a great 22-mile tempo run that will pay dividends later in the year in achieving my goals in shorter races.
  • Training is still training! 12, 14, 16, 18, 20 weeks of training don’t disappear because the race went poorly. I trained very hard for so many weeks for this one race, and it’s easy to forget about how much I have improved. Look back at your training and be proud that you ran your first 12 or 20-mile run. It’s a big accomplishment.
  • Make new goals! There is always another race. Find something new to shoot for. My advice is to take a break from running, and when you return find a shorter race to work toward. Don’t let your disappointment cause you to make rash decisions (like running another marathon to get the BQ) or return to running too early, thereby increasing your risk for injury.
  • Don’t forget about the race! Learn from your mistakes. Why did this injury occur? Could I add in strength training to prevent this injury in the future? Why was the time so slow? How was my pacing throughout the race? Can I make better nutritional decisions? How should I train differently for the next race? These are the types of questions to ask yourself in preparing for the next goal.

Disappointment is part of running. It’s how you deal with it that determines how much you will enjoy running and how much you will improve. It’s okay to be disappointed after a poor race – trust me, I was incredibly disappointed after my marathon. But if you can figure ways to adopt a glass-half-full attitude about the experience, then I guarantee you will ultimately run faster and enjoy the training.

Jason Lakritz is a physical therapist at Finish Line Physical Therapy and easily the fastest runner on our staff. Jason graduated from Florida State University where he was a member of the cross country and track team that won three NCAA National Championships. He currently runs with Urban Athletics, racing many times throughout the year in the New York City area. Read his full bio.

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