Recently I participated in running a half marathon. Before the half marathon I had been preparing, training regularly, eating the right food, drinking lots of water and generally trying to give myself the best opportunity to surpass my personal best target of 94 minutes, or 7 minutes and 10 seconds per mile. To begin with I keep a training log, recording all my times, distance, feelings, diet, weight for training, then analysing the minutes per mile and the days between runs. Previous to this half marathon, I had been running at a training rate of approximately 8 minutes per mile. My personal best was achieved by running at a training rate of 7.5 minutes per mile.
To better my personal best, the evening before the race I established a ‘mental plan’. I was busy learning my seven times table, as I set myself the target of running 7 minute miles’. To achieve this I equipped myself with a digital watch and I was relying on mile markers around the course. I started the race at what I believed to be a comfortable pace, unfortunately there were no mile markers until 4 miles so it was difficult to assess my initial ‘comfortable pace’. I was surprised to discover though that at 4 miles my time was 28 minutes. At this point I thought ‘great’, on time and I feel relatively comfortable. I started to realise there were runners around me now who were at the same pace so I started to set myself some ‘short term’ targets of maintaining the pace by staying with them, at the same time my thoughts were also about ‘long term’ targets, and in my sights were some runners approximately 50 metres in front, who were maintaining the same pace as myself during this period of the race. Setting these targets was important for me as they maintained my motivation and determination. As I passed other runners this had a positive effect on my mental state. I was almost counting the inverse – the number of people not passing me! As I achieved my targets this reinforced my positivity. My intention was, that for the latter stages of the race, I would accelerate towards my ‘long term’ target.
My race upto 9 miles was comfortable to a degree, a little short of water, and I had some uncomfortable sores and blisters on both feet, but I was on target with 63 minutes achieved, and my mental state was one of remaining positive and determined. Unfortunately after 9 miles my physical condition changed almost suddenly. At the beginning of the race, I had altered my ‘mental plan’ at the last moment based on the weather conditions at the time. I decided to wear an additional layer of clothing. This did not help with the lack of hydration as I was feeling extremely hot even on a cold, windy day at the end of February. Anyway as I have mentioned my performance upto 9 miles was excellent, after 9 miles something happened to my legs – I lacked strength. I felt I did not have the power to maintain the 7 minutes per mile rate, and rather than accelerate and power towards my long term targets, I had to settle for a pace for the last 4.1 miles at about 8.5 minutes per mile. Mentally it was tough and demoralising seeing runners pass me, especially ones, in which a few miles earlier I had passed them – I tried to remain positive and determined as I did not want to stop. I finished the race in a time of 98 minutes and 7 seconds, at a rate of 7.5 minutes per mile overall.
The one thing I enjoy about running is it allows me to think, without interruption. Post the race I have reflected on my performance and when I began to think about my performance, and preparation, I began to make some comparison with how we perform and prepare for tasks at work, and how we feel. What do we do when the going gets tough? Do we change our plan and take the easy option? Or are we persistent in following the plan? Do we try and maintain the same pace and injure ourselves, or do we adjust our objectives?
What did I personally learn?
1) I have the history and the data. Was I realistic in setting my initial objectives? I have to be more realistic !
2) I will not change my plan. I wore an additional shirt. This caused me to overheat. Create and follow my race plan – pre, during and post.
3) Even when things become difficult try and remain positive and enjoy the small successes.
4) Don’t become arrogant – Past Success does not guarantee Future Success!
5) Continue to monitor, learn and review my performance – improve!