There’s an emotional cliff awaiting every runner after a major event. The cheers of the fellow runners and the setting of race day atmosphere have dissipated into your memories, leaving you with yourself; the harshest critic of your abilities you’ve ever met.
Maybe you hit your goal, but did you feel as good as you told yourself you would? Did you miss your goal, and now you’re cursing your mistakes from miles 4-7 that crushed your energy at mile 29? Do you feel great about what happened, but look at that next goal with fear and hesitation, questioning if you really are that good of a runner?
Reality doesn’t let you savor memories for very long without reminding you that fear and self-doubt are of endless supply.
I don’t intend to suggest there’s a way to make those questions stop. Nor, do I think they should. We need to question our past, even if it was only hours or days prior. That’s when it’s freshest in our minds and hasn’t been tainted by years of mistaken memory, layered over by emotions and merged experiences.
What I believe we can do is honestly answer these questions. We just need to do so in a forward-thinking and positive manner. And I believe we accomplish that with two steps.
Assessment of the Facts:
Honestly write down what happened during your run.
Did you actually feel great when you told the people high-fiving you that? Did you eat exactly as you planned? Were you happy when you were out there enough to warrant putting yourself through this again?
No one needs to know these answers but you. And it’s a huge stumbling block to our progression when we lie to ourselves. Honesty with that weird-looking version of yourself in the mirror is key to improving. Take every ounce of information relevant to your progression and compile it in a kind and thoughtful note to yourself for when you begin your next training cycle. I’m stressing the kind part once again because a nastygram to yourself is pointless torture that we all need to stop.
When you begin your next training session after you’ve targeted a new goal, read through your race details to remember what you did and didn’t like. You may find yourself about to fall into the same habit for this goal, leading you to repeat the same frustrations that may lead you to a DNF, or just a very long and cumbersome push to the finish.
Re-Assessment of Our Emotions:
Our memories stick with us for as long as our minds are capable of holding onto them. This is just a process of our brain, normal to our species. Whether or not these memories are labeled good or bad, viewed with pleasure or pain, is a process of our thinking and construct of our view at the time. If you had a bad experience with your previous race, you may look at it in disgust or frustration.
Holding onto the anger from a previous race may fuel your passion for a while, but it’s a fast-burning wick that will burn out before the finish line. You may not be happy with the outcome of your effort at a previous race, but to look at the experience in a negative light will affect you. Be hungry for better. Challenge yourself to go farther, and cross that next finish line. But take those desires to look negatively at a previous race and burn them in a bonfire while you laugh with your friends about how you fell or missed a cutoff while staring at the stars and being grateful for the opportunity to get back at it.
Don’t let your experience go to waste by ignoring important information that can fuel your future runs. And don’t let it fester and boil its way into your nightmares when you could let the pain ease, and begin to enjoy the moment for what it was.
Amor Fati – Love your fate.
It’s the only one you’re going to get.