This past February my wife (Kim) and I ran the Murietta Avocado half marathon. It was my first “official” half. Finish time 1:39
Below are 11 lessons gleaned from the experience:
1) Generally speaking, paid races are a waste of money. It’s for people who need an official calendar date to find motivation, or to seek external validation by suiting up in fancy workout apparel to show the world they are part of that particular culture. I feel equally satisfied (if not more so) running on my own.
2) Preparation is everything. Prior to the start, Kim remarked that I looked calm. I was, very calm indeed. Yes, there were some unknown elements, but putting one foot in front of the other is old news. The distance is old news. Running early in the morning is old news. Running hills is old news. There were two hills on this race that caused many otherwise strong runners to walk. I embraced those inclines. Loved them even. I’m not into the practice of positive affirmations. But I did continually repeat “hills are where I win”. After each runner slipped behind me, I couldn’t help but reflect on all the hours I had spent running up Cowles Mountain (the highest point in San Diego County) and grinding up the fire break trails on Camp Pendleton. I didn’t look down on anyone who couldn’t keep up. I didn’t think I was “better” than them. I did, however, feel EXTREMELY grateful that I had already paid the piper. I had good credit and it made me want to never quit fighting gravity.
4) Practice how you play. Normally when I run, I stop to pee whenever I feel the urge. Today I didn’t. “Time doesn’t stop when I stop”, I thought. So I continued to push – it was unpleasant. I exercised discipline running up hills prior to the race, but never holding onto a full bladder. I need to exercise discipline in ALL areas of training, just as if were game day.
5) Expect the unknown. Mile 9 had a road washed out. There was no option but to run through this excess rain water. My feet got wet. Not a little wet, a lot wet. All the way wet. It also was unpleasant. The lesson here was to “go the extra mile” while preparing to be the best. I often run along the ocean but never once considered soaking my feet to add a curve ball. Another lesson here is about being a good volunteer. There were several Marines acting as road guards just a few feet away. This happened to be an area with no traffic. They could have EASILY walked over and set out a few boulders for runners to walk over. Of course, they were just there to hit a wicket for their advancement. A generation of idleness. While I’m on the topic, I noticed that many of the road guards had bags of fast food by their side. Juxtaposition indeed.
6) No time to look back. One thing I did well was to avoid the temptation of looking back. I focused on closing the distance to the runner in front of me. If there was any advantage to paying for a race this was it. It naturally creates a spirit of competitiveness. Whenever I found myself next to someone running the same exact pace, I had to be the one to speed up a little. Only one person played leapfrog with me. Once I made the second pass I committed to making it final. Cars have large windshields and tiny rear view mirrors, most of our time should be spent looking at the lights in front of us.
7) Family first! Kim pulled her hamstring insomuch that she heard an audible pop. She sent me the info via text. This gave me a heavy heart and I suspect even slowed me down a bit just to think that she was not enjoying the race as much as me. I wanted to turn back and be with her. I made the difficult decision to push forward. This takes me back to my first point, upon injury – not worth the expense. Also, may divide loved ones…I only didn’t turn back because I thought of the money ‘invested’….but what I really needed to be doing was investing in my injured wife.
8) Scout the track. If I’m going to race for time, it’s a good idea to scout the track. It’s like reading the table of contents of a book. It will help to subconsciously prepare for what’s ahead. I could have run faster but not knowing the track required me to pace on the safe side. For example, the first mile-marker was at mile 4, but in my head, this was mile 6 – a disappointment. From mile 12 until the finish, I didn’t know where to turn on the gas. Additionally, the course ended up being 13.31 total distance in order to corral the racers into a parking lot.
9) Girls rock! It was awesome to see several females run faster than me. Not because I thought of myself as better/faster/stronger….but knowing how fast I did run and how far behind I was just evoked an endless wellspring of respect for those sisters!
10) No pain no gain. I was limping on Monday (before the race) and sprinting on the day of (Saturday). Every day in between I ran a little bit despite the pain. I demanded of myself that my body would perform come show time. It worked, the pain subsided long enough to execute.
11) Runners high. It’s a real thing. Not the way others have described it to me. For me, it comes after a long-ish run. Sometimes immediately after, but sometimes hours later. I just sit down, relax and everything just slows down. My sense of sight, smell, and hearing are enhanced. I feel content beyond description. It is a very euphoric experience.