I loved running the Palestine half, but I didn’t run a good race and I came away frustrated with my performance. I was aiming for under two hours, but the heat and hills defeated me. About a mile from the end, my Garmin told me that I needed to do a 9-minute mile to come in under my target but I couldn’t face putting in the effort, and I walked some of the way. In fact my Garmin wasn’t measuring the course accurately – when do they? – and the finish was less than a mile, so it wouldn’t have taken as much energy as I thought. When I told people I didn’t run a good race, they would usually remind me that it was great that I was running it all – which it was – and that the time didn’t matter – which it doesn’t really. I think what they were really saying was don’t be too hard on yourself, which is always good advice. But I’ve been thinking ever since about what makes a good race, and yesterday I ran one at the Osterley 10k.
My target was to get close to 51 minutes, preferably below it, so I started just behind Tom and Ralph who were pacing 50 minutes. Trying to get my fitness back, I find I am having to battle more than ever the internal monologue in a race or even a run that says this is too hard; I can’t keep this up; I’m not going to make it. I think it’s powerful at the moment because I don’t have any evidence to counteract it – I don’t know what I’m capable of any more; I just know that I’m slower. In Palestine that voice won. Yesterday it was playing loud and clear but checking in with my body, I wasn’t feeling too bad. I lost Tom and Ralph after about half way, and at the risk of sounding completely bonkers, I started saying to myself ‘strong and tall’ as I ran to drown out ‘this is too hard’! About 1k from the end, I passed a couple of ESM runners, a man who was pacing a woman. He was saying to her ‘You’re doing really well, coming back from injury. You’re a strong, brave woman. I’m really proud of you. You can do this.’ I absolutely knew that he wasn’t talking to me, but boy did it make a difference! I sprinted at the end and finished in 50:41 which I was really pleased with.
For me, running a good race is about setting a realistic target; wining the mental battle so I’m listening to my body and not the voice in my head; focusing on how I want to run – strong and tall; running my race and not tucking in behind other runners to go at their pace; and finishing knowing that I’ve given it my best. That all came together yesterday, and it was an unexpected bonus to eavesdrop on the ESM man coaching his friend – thank you!
Photo: Neil Enskat