Every marathon teaches me something, and this one was no different. Usually the lessons come to me a few days after the race, but this time the lessons came fast and furious the last five miles. Since I spent most of the race in my head–and not on the course where I should have been–I was a receptive student.
Lesson #1: Run with friends. I want to travel with friends, run with friends, and celebrate with friends. Running alone is hard. Even though friends are made during the race, they are fleeting, and it’s not the same as running with someone you’ve trained with. I seem to need having someone else there who knows all my strengths and weaknesses, someone who will keep me honest and won’t let me give in when I start to fade. I also think I run better when I feel responsible for someone else’s success, when I know they are counting on me to help them reach the finish line. Even if you only start together, just knowing my friends are out there really helps a lot. (This may not seem like a big lesson, but for someone who tends to keep people at arm’s length, this is big. I’ve only really learned the true value of friendship since I started running.)
Lesson #2: Enjoy the race. This is a lesson I forget and have to relearn every single marathon, so I’m still working on it. I take these things much too seriously. I should have accepted the fact that I was sick and let the crowd help me along the course. Instead, I mostly tuned them out, intent only on finishing the race. Maybe this was a self-preservation tactic, but it wasn’t very much fun.
Lesson #3: Be kind to yourself. Even though I felt under the weather during the race and knew I wasn’t going to have my best day, I beat myself up for 26.2 long, grueling miles. That made the race even more miserable, of course, and certainly had a negative effect on my performance.
Lesson #4: Accept the fact that there will always be good races and not so good races. Every single run is different. We all diligently keep our running logs, analyze our data, and most of us never really know why we run better on some days than others. You can do everything right and still have a bad race. Accept it, learn from it, and move on.
Despite everything, I had a great time in Boston. It was tough, but I learned a lot about myself out there on the course. I made it to the finish line, and that’s all that really matters. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in my time, but when it’s all said and done, who really cares?
Besides, there’s always next year, and revenge is so sweet . . .