13 May

Reflect and Refocus

Edinburgh Marathon

Now that we are past the spring marathon season, it's a good time for reflection. Some will have met their goals; maybe for their first ever completion of the 26.2 mile distance, others will have had lofty ambitions of particular times to aim for.

Some will have seen their hard work and preparation come to fruition. Others will be frustrated by falling short. For those that have failed, it really important to be honest about what went wrong and why.

The marathon requires a thorough preparation and an intelligent execution to get right. Some can fall short by setting their targets too high. It is important to be realistic and respect the distance. Those that did get it wrong need to ask themselves several questions.

Did I train sufficiently? Did I train smart enough? Did I rest and recover properly in the lead up? Was my hydration strategy correct? Was my refuelling strategy right? Did I pace it correctly? Did I make the right clothing choices? Was I mentally prepared properly for the race?

Within those questions and more, the answer will often be hiding there somewhere. It can be a little dis-spiriting when you don't meet your goals. From non-running friends you might hear, "Just get back on the horse" or "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." It's all very well meaning, but fairly useless advice.

The best bet is to seriously assess what you did and didn't do wrong and learn from it for next time. If you are still unsure and still have unfulfilled ambitions, then consider joining a running club or at least a running network, where you are virtually guaranteed to pick up nuggets of advice that will put you back on track.

The most important element is not to feel too downcast - you're not alone. And if the marathon has left it scars on you mentally as well as physically, then don't feel you have to throw yourself into an autumn marathon to make up for your spring disappointments.

Indeed, if you are pitching yourself into another event with trepidation and no excitement, then the chances are you won't approach training with much gusto and are setting yourself up for another failure. The third marathon I ever ran was a great disappointment to me, I was well down on the PB target I had set and well down on my B and C goals too for that matter.

It left me feeling a little deflated. That's not to say the answers weren't readily available to me. I asked myself those same searching questions above and immediately knew there were a host of mistakes I had made.

What really sparked me from my depression was setting new goals. Rather than let the year go to waste, I decided to attempt my first triathlon. The freshness it brought to my training was invigorating. Swimming and cycling were new and tough, but also rewarding. The running part of the training actually felt like a real treat. I finished the triathlon and in a pretty decent time.

Within a few months, my love for running re-born, I set another new goal of beating my 10k PB - I smashed it. I eventually returned to the marathon a wiser runner and improved my PB by 13 minutes. I am not sure I could have made that jump had I persisted chasing the same goals. I'm convinced that a switch in focus freshened up my running life, sustained the interest and enabled me to eventually reach my goals. If you find yourself in a similarly downcast post-marathon mood, then perhaps the same that could work for you?