Friday, March 20, 2015

A Half Marathon PR (and why I can't enjoy it)

I ran a half marathon last weekend. My abbreviated running bio is that I didn't grow up running, had a so-so experience at a half in Spring 2010, took some time off from running during grad school, and did my first run-all-the-way half marathon in the fall. This past weekend, I felt great the whole way and beat my fall finish time by 11 minutes (and that's with stopping to say hi to my father!).

So, why do I have these nagging things in my head trying to diminish my accomplishment of a PR (personal record)? WTH?

I'm NOT writing this for praise or pity. My brain knows how awesome it is to accomplish any goal, and especially to accomplish something that you had to work for over time. And, I mean, half marathon! Yet, I can't help but feel a little less than excited about a few aspects of this whole experience... so I'm sharing my thoughts because I bet some of you can relate. Here goes.

Seriously? Argh!

Strange self-deprecating thought #1: It wasn't a full marathon.
You train so hard that it starts to feel easy (which is the whole point of training!). This may definitely sounds crazy, but there have been times where I have double triple checked by GPS watch to see if I really had been running for X hours or covered Y miles... as if I couldn't believe I had actually done it. Anyway, you work your tail off to get ready for an event like this and then feel like... maybe you could have done more. How many times I've thought, "well, it's only a half marathon... I mean, a full marathon, there's a real challenge!"... I tried to combat this feeling by posting this on Instagram the morning of the race - but reminding myself of this sentiment is tougher than it should be!

A photo posted by Jennifer Lauren (@thezbeat) on

Strange self-deprecating thought #2: I didn't win.
Ok, I'm being a little cheeky - obviously I didn't expect to win, or even finish in the top 50%. But running can feel like it's all about the numbers: how many miles, how long, pace, elevation, number of power gels - you get the idea. And even though I PR'ed you just can't help but compare yourself to others. Could I have been faster? Maybe. I'm always torn between pushing beyond what you think your limits are and pushing too hard to the point of injury or hitting a wall mid-race. The reality is, you'll just never know... you can't recreate a race because there are too many variables (training effort, weather, what you ate the week before, etc.). You just have to trust that you did your best on race day.

Strange self-deprecating thought #3: I gained weight! Perhaps the worst mind trick of all. I didn't sign up for this half marathon to lose weight. It didn't even cross my mind. But, seeing your weight go up - even just by a few pounds -  after running 13 freakin' miles (not to mention all the training) is just hard to swallow. I know that this is not a new or me-specific phenomenon. Lots of other runnerbloggers have written about this. I mean, I even wrote a post about how muscles retain water after exercise as part of the recovery process. But, c'mon dude.

Strange self-deprecating thought #4: It's over.
All good things come to an end. Apparently all things that are kind of torturous but somehow also empowering also come to an end. I wonder if thoughts #1-3 are just part of some sort of postpartum thing that runners go through. Once it's over, you can't go back and change how fast you went or your pre-race fuel. You also aren't distracted by your training schedule. You're just back to being plain old you.

So... what's left to do? Maybe plain old me needs to sign up for my next race. :)


  1. I have been where you are before! It's all about positive self-talk and the realization YOU DID SOMETHING YOU SET OUT TO DO and deserve that ACCOMPLISHMENT!

    1. Thanks Katrina - I totally agree with you! I've been trying to get over the numbers and focus on the insane sense of pride I had when I crossed the finish line (before I had time to over-overanalyze). :)

  2. First, congratulations on your PR, that's a great accomplishment. It's very important as a "newbie" runner to not get caught up in the comparison game. Every runner has their own journey, and the person who is faster than you may have been running their whole life, and maybe not. But who cares? And honestly, the only people winning half marathons are professional athletes. Just being able to finish and set out what you plan to do is how you win the race. I hope you feel better about your accomplishment soon, so many people don't have the health or discipline to do what you've done. Try to think of your blessings!

  3. Y'know what? It's OKAY to have those thoughts. I have them all the time - and I use those thoughts to fuel my desire to do better. Deep down, you already know you accomplished something great, and it shows in the way you approached this topic, but that surface feeling of dissatisfaction is the REASON you were able to accomplish anything in the first place. Complacency leads to stagnation. See your disappointment as a reason to do better (not a reason to give up, like so many do) and you'll only move forward.

    Also, 'grats on the PR!