It’s marathon week and I’m getting excited. I can already feel the energy and excitement starting to build and with the generous assistance of the taper, I expect to be positively bubbling by Friday evening! I’m looking forward to the Stone Mad Marathon, not in the way that I usually look forward to doing a marathon but in a purely fun, adventure oriented way.
Ever since I did my first marathon in Dublin in 2008, doing a marathon suddenly morphed into being all about time. What time did I want to run it in? What time did I expect to run it in? What would be a good time according to family, friends and other people? It starts to take over your running headspace, which is ridiculous when you stand back and take a look at the situation – surely, anyone who completes a 26.2 mile run deserves a huge congratulations on what is a massive achievement. I guess it’s human nature whereby once we do something, we want to do it better the next time. We want to see how good we can do it, to get the best out of ourselves. And that’s not a bad thing. What is a bad thing is creating so much pressure for yourself that you inadvertently remove all of the enjoyment from doing a marathon.
What is worse, is allowing other people (particularly people who don’t run or who have never run done any kind of endurance sport) to impose such pressure on you. I don’t know about other people, but nowadays when I finish a race, the first thing people ask me is what time did you do it in? Parents, uncles, aunts, brothers, family, friends – none of whom run, save a couple – not only is it the first question out of their mouths before they even give you a hug or a high five or offer an encouraging, congratulatory few words but they then proceed to compare me to the winning time and offer their expert opinion on where it is that I went wrong and how I could have done it better.
This drives me nuts! Not only does it completely take away from your sense of achievement and positively pop your happy bubble that you’ve just worked so hard to create (not to mention all of the training that you’ve put in) but it also completely undermines your confidence going forward. For example, two years ago when I did the Dublin marathon in what was a huge PB for me of 4:05, shortly after the race someone asked me what time did I do it in and when I told them, their response was “Oh, that’s a pity. It would have been nice to be under 4 hours.” Well yes, obviously. This was a massive achievement for me and instead of just giving me a big hug, saying well done and how proud they were of me, I was left feeling a tad disappointed. Whether it’s yourself or other people, by making it all about a goal time, finishing it in any time beyond what you were hoping for means that there’ll likely be some disappointment at the end of the race. And this really is mad. Sorry for the rant, but it needs to be said.
When I did the Dublin marathon this year, I finished in 4:06, although I had been hoping for under 4 hours and I’m not gonna lie, I was a little disappointed, so much so that I nearly immediately signed up for another marathon: the Stone Mad marathon happening this weekend. Since then, however, I have been doing a lot of thinking about pace, time, etc. and I’ve been way more chilled out in my training, doing easy/ hard runs when I feel like it, just trying to get back to enjoying running because really that is what it should be about. I’m not a professional athlete, I’m not out to win races so if I’m not getting enjoyment of running, what am I getting out of it? Hence, I am consciously trying to become a funner runner.
One of the reasons why I am continuing to run with this (pun intended!) mindset is because since I’ve changed my tact, I’ve been smashing my PRs – I knocked 3:30 minutes off my 10km PR getting under 50 minutes for the first time ever and likewise got sub 40 minutes for the first time in a 5 mile race, again knocking off over 2 minutes. So now I’m all about letting in the fun! This weekend, I have a plan for the marathon: to enjoy it. I’m not going to worry or even think about pace or time. I will be wearing my Garmin because, admittedly, I can’t quite let go that far but I’m planning for it to be just mildly in the background, bleeping intermittently. So although it was initially intended as some sort of marathon vengeance or reprisal for Dublin, it has become something else entirely: a chilled out, fun run down the country.
Let’s see if I still agree with that description when I’m at mile 25…