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Post-Marathon Mindset

May 10, 2010

All smiles despite inaccurate sign: SBS and Joanne (who made the sign), at the finish area.

Big Sur Marathon was the sixth marathon I’ve run, but it was the only one in which I wore a smile across the finish line. As blog-followers will know, my last two marathons (Eugene and Nike Women’s) ended with tears. At Eugene, I reached my stated goal—to break 4 hours—yet fell short of my unspoken one of qualifying for Boston (3:50:59, at the time). Instead of being elated about running a sub-4:00 marathon after four unsuccessful attempts, I was bitterly dejected at falling short of a Boston-qualifying (BQ) time. And in San Francisco, at the Nike race, the torrent of stinging tears was at running my slowest marathon ever. At my three previous marathons I was either in too much pain or merely ambivalent about my performance to crack a grin.

But not at Big Sur. Even though I knew I had probably narrowly missed my BQ of 4:00:59, I had a massive grin on my face as I sprinted toward the finish (“sprinted” being a relative term after 26 miles, of course). I spied my friend Joanne, who had been at the finish line for me at Eugene, and I started whooping and hollering at her. I was equally exuberant and joyful when she and I hugged after I crossed the line. I’ve been on a high ever since.

In addition to being delighted with my finish, I’m also happy about my reaction to it. If you’d asked me before the race how I’d feel about missing my BQ, I would have told you dejected and miserable. To feel content and delighted makes me feel extra-good about myself and my efforts. Sure, I’m “the competitive one” in Run Like a Mother, but it pleases me greatly that I can take joy in doing my best, despite falling short of my goal.

I was emailing Ann, a woman who contributed input and insight for RLAM, about all this, and she wrote, “It makes me crazy how difficult it is to give ourselves credit. Since Boston, I have read so many posts about how, ‘I was good but could have done better,’ and I want to just shake those people and tell them to be proud now because in a couple of years they are going to kick themselves for not enjoying the moment.” Amen, sista!

What’s your mental state in the days and weeks after a marathon?

22 Comments leave one →
  1. Katie permalink
    May 10, 2010 5:49 am

    Tall Mom sent me over to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.

  2. May 10, 2010 6:43 am

    While I have never run a marathon, I did have my worst run ever last Sunday during Philadelphia’s Broad Street Run. “Broad Street” is a 10 miler and it was 90 degrees with 90% humidity by 9am. Last year was my first time running it, and I was 7 months postpartum and still breast feeding so I was hell bent on smoking my finish time and keeping it under 100 minutes. By mile 2 I couldn’t let my heart monitor get above 165 before I felt dizzy and that number just got lower as I continued. I finished at a pathetic 2 hours and 7 minutes. Everyone kept telling me it was great I finished, worst weather in the race’s 31 year history, many people taken away by ambulance, blah, blah, blah. It took me several days to “shake it off” and realize I did finish, I’m making the time to train, and in general I’m doing a good job getting it done. Then I went ahead and bought the dress from Athleta I promised myself for a sub 100 anyway.

    • bowenshea permalink*
      May 10, 2010 11:26 am

      That are BRUTAL racing conditions, Ellen, especially for so early in the season when your body (and mind!) hasn’t had a chance to acclimate. I think you definitely deserved the Athleta dress (I’d love to see photo–go to Run Like a Mother: The Book on Facebook and post a photo, if you feel so inclined. I saw a woman in a dress at Hippie Chick Half in Oregon on Saturday and it was cutest thing EVER!). Kudos again for sticking through to the finish of the Broad Street Run.

    • Allyson permalink
      May 11, 2010 4:54 am

      Hi Ellen,
      I ran the broad street also and it was miserable. I was trying to beat my PR from the year before but quickly shifted into ” just finish” mode. I thought I’d be upset when I missed my goal, but decided that finishing in those conditions was a huge accomplishment. I’m wearing my broad street tee shirt with pride and you should too!

  3. May 10, 2010 8:39 am

    Tall Mom sent me to wish you a Happy Mommy’s Day! Hope you had a great one!

  4. May 10, 2010 8:45 am

    Aie…I aspire to your big grin across the finish line. I’m training for my first marathon, and just completed my second half-marathon in April. I had been doing sub-2hr 21km distances in training, and hoped that on race day in April, I would finish in a time that would make it sensible for me to train to BQ (yeah, for my first marathon. Someone please just smack me.) But I was so close in training! It made sense! Really! Until race day, when the cold, the mud, the constant downpour of rain, and a wonky belly gave me a crashing case of fatigue mid-race and a time of 2:11, not the 1:50 I’d worked toward. I was so disappointed in my time, I forgot to notice the fact that it was a full 5 minutes faster than the half-marathon I’d run just seven months before.

    My goal is to finish with a smile on my face. I’m 43, so in a couple of years, the BQ time will be more attainable anyway…time to enjoy a couple of marathons and see what I’m really capable of doing while still loving it. Rock on!

    • bowenshea permalink*
      May 10, 2010 11:28 am

      LOVE your “”someone just smack me” comment! Tells me you for-sure have the right attitude to meet your goals with a smile on your face.
      Depending on when your bday is, you might only have to wait a year before you can aim for sub-4:00:59 to qualify for Boston. I’m “only” 44, but I turn 45 before next year’s race, so I get to squeak in on the 45-49 age qualifier.

  5. Tryna permalink
    May 10, 2010 8:48 am

    Big Sur was my fifth, and also really enjoyed finishing. I had a big happy glow for earning my medal that didn’t wear off until this weekend. We finally had great weather in Portland and I had sworn that I wouldn’t run to give my body a rest. To top it off, hubby has the plague or something very close, so other than Sunday morning yoga, didn’t have the release of the run to enjoy. Now it’s Monday, and I’m ready to start working toward a PR for a half marathon in July, and mostly because it’s raining, I have the post-marathon blues. But I put my framed picture of the Big Sur finish, with my medal hanging on it, which is pretty cool, and can’t wait for a speed workout tomorrow morning. Am off for some caffeine to beat those blues away. I have promised hubby I won’t pick another marathon until his Ironman is over on 6/27, so am going to go marathon shopping (dreaming) this afternoon.

  6. OtherJulie permalink
    May 10, 2010 10:25 am

    I ran the Hippie Chick on Sat with the goal to run the whole way. I ran the whole way and beat my PR by 18 minutes. I was pretty shocked and pleased. I was encouraged by the chapter that talked about leaving nothing in the tank at the finish line. I still had a little left, so I am excited to see if I can actually get the time down.

    So…for me…after the big race, I’m psyched to go to the next.

    Also, thanks for the RLAM stickers that you gave my hubby. My little guy ripped it off my water bottle the day after I put it on (when you were here in Bend).

    Thanks for the encouragement and motivation…

    • bowenshea permalink*
      May 10, 2010 11:31 am

      OtherJulie–I LOVED that you were so intent on having a RLAM sticker that you sent (devoted/obedient) hubby over to get a replacement. I told Phoebe about it when I got home.
      That is SO awesome that you not only ran whole way but that you knocked 18 minutes off PR!! Woot-hoot!!! Way to RLAM!! Glad Mental Toughness chapter helped. I recently talked to another mom who read that chapter 10 (!!) times before PRing in a half, finally breaking 2:00. It thrills me to have the words help power determined mommas.

  7. Joanne Godfrey permalink
    May 10, 2010 10:58 am

    You looked strong, you finished strong and you could chat afterwards! It was a once in a lifetime opportunity (twice for me now!) and so emotional to see you cross the finish line…Where can I cheer you on next? With Daphne/John this time perhaps! : )

    • bowenshea permalink*
      May 10, 2010 11:32 am

      Too funny: Just this morning I was thinking that if I do a fall marathon (stay tuned!), it means John and Daphne could watch. When I showed Daphne the photo and asked her who was standing next to me, she said, “Ms. Godfrey. She loves us.” Awwww! xo

      • Joanne Godfrey permalink
        May 11, 2010 2:10 pm

        Ohhh I am grinning with anticipation – would love to take J and D for a finish line cheering section…

      • Dede permalink
        May 11, 2010 11:13 pm

        There’s a great one here on the west coast in Santa Barbara in nov. Love to see you there. I’ll be the one RLAM. Lol

  8. May 10, 2010 11:01 am

    You have a great attitude. I find that if I didn’t accomplish my goals, I go into punishment mode, which is just stupid. More miles, more speed, new goals–when really, it should be time to kick back and give the body a break. So hats off to you for doing it right!

    • bowenshea permalink*
      May 10, 2010 11:34 am

      Interesting as it never occurred to me to up intensity of my workouts based on “sub-par” finish. As Ann pointed out to me in email, us gals have to give ourselves a break.

  9. Misty permalink
    May 10, 2010 11:54 am

    Good for you, SBS. I’m really glad you’re not beating yourself up about it. How did the half feel so soon after the marathon? I love the Hippie Chick 1/2. I missed the midnight registration and it was too late by morning!

    I finished my first marathon, the Eugene Marathon, last Sunday. Having never done one before, a goal time was a bit hard to pin down. I thought I could finish in under 5 hours, but I jokingly (sort of) told everyone my dream goal for the race was to beat Oprah’s time (4:29). Unfortunately, Oprah’s time was just a bit too aggressive for me, especially since I allowed myself some walk breaks somewhere after mile 17. I soon realized that under 5 hours might be out of my reach if I didn’t keep running and somehow I managed to keep running those last 3.2 miles. It was very, very difficult and took all I had. But I crossed the finish line, running, at Hayward Field in 4:57, with a big smile on my face (and a couple of happy tears).

    During those last few miles I really questioned whether I would ever want to run another marathon (I mean, a half marathon is a much more reasonable distance, no?) and now I’m seriously considering doing another one this year (Portland). I am much more proud of myself than I thought I would be. It was a really, really great experience. And I’m really relishing/appreciating my runs now. On my run yesterday morning, when I’d pass another runner, I was saying inside my head “you know, I ran a marathon last weekend.” 🙂

    • bowenshea permalink*
      May 10, 2010 3:47 pm

      Oh, Misty, I’ve been where you were: In my first and third marathons, I was SOOO questioning why I was running and telling myself I’d never do another. Yet here I am, contemplating marathon #7!

      CONGRATULATIONS on finishing in sub-5:00. Sure, you didn’t beat Oprah, but you SPANKED Katie Holmes’ NYC Marathon time. Well done! “;>)

      (Also, for the record: I only sold books and tees at Hippie Chick. I’m letting my legs recuperate post-marathon!)

  10. Tricia permalink
    May 10, 2010 12:35 pm

    I’m running my 5th marathon in less than two weeks. I hope my mindset will be the same as every other marathon I’ve run – happy to finish upright and smiling. I’ve had races where I’ve met my modest time goals and others where the elements conspired or my desire to stay with my training group overruled my competitive nature and brought me over the finish past my goal time. Regardless I love the journey – the training and the race. I actually thought about your Big Sur race report when we were running our last long run this weekend. I love how happy you were with your race despite missing your BQ by a hair. But something you said about emptying the tank in RLAM (which I got for Mother’s day!) also made me realize it’ll be okay to dig in and run my race in two weeks even if the group doesn’t stick together for the entire 26.2. I don’t anticipate completely emptying the tank but I will be disappointed in myself if I’m not sore and walking a little funny during our post race shopping trip.

    • bowenshea permalink*
      May 10, 2010 3:45 pm

      Sounds like your head is in the right place, Tricia. I agree: I, too, love the journey of training for a marathon.

      And Big Sur was the first marathon where I felt I learned something really positive about myself during the race. It was very personally affirming. Sounds like you’re in for that type of experience.

  11. May 10, 2010 2:19 pm

    I was so happy to read this, Sarah, cuz after meeting you and getting to know you some, I understood how much it meant to reach your goals (and sorry I’ve been a lousy friend lately and not keeping in better touch!) as I am very similar in that department. I had one of the worst finish line times in Boston and the old Jill would have probably sulked for a few weeks over this….but I knew going into Boston I was in the worst condition I’ve ever been so chances were slim it was going to turn out in my favor to be a great race. What I learned about myself along those 26 miles is that not every race has to be about PRing or finish line clock times, sometimes it’s about having fun and sharing a special kinship – and THAT was something I wasn’t expecting in Boston, yet achieved. There’s races I’ll still tr to do my very best but sometimes there are forces beyond our control where we can’t reach our goals…and I’m finally at peace with that. I’m soooo glad you are, too! 🙂 Yay!

  12. May 10, 2010 3:29 pm

    Tall Mom on the Run sent me over to wish you a Happy Mother-Runner Mother’s Day! And I’ve been stalking your website for the past 20 minutes.


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