I’ve run a lot of races. I’m not sure the exact number but I know I’ve run 2 marathons and 38 half marathons and lots of other distances. So, the opportunity to have a truly awful race has arisen more than once. In fact, I had a hard time deciding what was my worst race ever to write about for Tuesdays on the Run with Patty and April. After all, I’ve run races where the pouring rain nearly washed my contacts out, races where the hills chewed me up and spit me out, and races were I was completely undertrained for the event.
So, what did I decide?
My worst race was my very first half marathon: ZOOMA Annapolis in 2008. Was it my worst due to the race itself? No, absolutely not. It was well organized for an inaugural race and Annapolis is a lovely place to run. (In fact, I was a ZOOMA Ambassador in 2014 and had to decline my ambassadorship in 2015 because of Jones’ orchestra schedule.)
What made it my worst race? The heat (we all know I’m really sensitive), my dehydration going into the race, and my own inexperience with racing long distances.(I’d run the Army 10 miler once. All of my other races were 10K or shorter.) If you’d like to read about that train wreck of a race, feel free to check out my ZOOMA Annapolis race report.
1. Respect the heat – I’m not a fan of hot weather running, but spring races in particular can be really hard. A race on the first hot weekend of the year is not a time to try to PR. If you’ve been running in cold weather and your body isn’t adapted to the heat, it’s time to slow it down and run for fun. Even if you enjoy running in the warm weather, heat and humidity will make it harder to run at any given pace.
2. Everything is better with friends – I’ve run hot races since then (and races that were awful for other reasons), but if I have friends on the course with me, it’s going to be an ok race. I pretty much never run an entire race with anyone, it’s enough to know that there are people out there who will meet me at the end and/or commiserate over the awfulness.
3. Stupidity can trump a good training season – You can put in all the runs. You can hit all your paces. But a few stupid choices can totally negate that. Things like starting a race too fast, starting out dehydrated, ignoring the toll the heat and hills are taking on you, etc. can make 13 miles feel like an ultra. There are lessons to learn from every single race you do.
4. Appreciate the positives – OK, I admit, I didn’t appreciate this lesson until well after this race. I was too invested in finishing fast to wrap my head around being proud of finishing. Sometimes you need to just be happy you didn’t DNF, that the race course was lovely, and that the volunteers had smiles. I’ve learned that every race I finish upright and smiling is a good race.
5. We are stronger than we think we are – There are moments in many races where I’m not sure I’ll finish, much less finish fast. But I’ve learned that if I dig deeper, I have it within myself to get to the finish line. I just have to keep my mind from telling me I can’t do it. Most of the time, if you can get your brain on board, you can succeed.
I also learned (and this still holds true for me) that Gatorade is a lifesaver for me when I’m running a hot race.
What have you learned from your worst racing experiences? Is there a product that can make or break a race for you?