16 Mar

To Hell And Back

RunnerIt’s an unavoidable truth of racing life that sooner or later, at one point or another, it’ll all go horribly wrong – and we don’t mean just missing a new PB by a shoelace. So, make peace now with the fact that there’ll be a king-sized clanger of an event with your name on it in the not too-distant future. It’s how you deal with it when it comes that matters.

Defining disaster
From bitter experience, race-day disasters come in three categories: those we can just about avoid (like making sure our GPS watches are fully charged – and that we know how to use them properly before the race starts); those we can’t avoid completely (like getting ill, suffering an injury or not being able to pick up a GPS signal); and those which are clearly just the gods of running having a laugh at our expense (like driving off with your kitbag on the roof of the car, showing up at a similarly named, but utterly wrong, town on race day, or running the last 17 miles – and seven big hills – of a trail race with just one shoe – all of which, incidentally, happened to friends of runABC).

Dealing with disaster
The key to dealing with disaster is staying positive, adjusting your expectations and working with the situation you have in front of you, rather than what you hoped for.It’s not realistic to expect a PB if you need to make regular detours to the course Portaloos – so don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, congratulate yourself for showing the sheer grit you’ve proved you have. After the race, learn from your experience. Did a change of pre-race breakfast or new gel let you down, or perhaps it was the trip to the takeaway at 11pm the night before the race? Whatever the cause of your woes, learn your lessons for next time – and don’t repeat them!

Watch out … it’s a disaster. Or is it?
Sometimes what looks like a disaster can be a blessing in disguise. The most common mishap reported by the runners we spoke to was forgetting or not charging their GPS devices. More interesting, though, was that after resigning themselves to a GPS-free pacing nightmare, most of our runners confessed that they ran their races just as well – if not better – than they might have done otherwise. One runner told us that after her initial panic, not having her Garmin took the pressure off and allowed her to relax: she was rewarded for her forgetfulness with a win and her second best time over the distance.

Cheer up, it might never happen
Another reason to stay positive is that the nightmare scenario you envisage might never materialise. One runner we spoke to turned up five minutes late to a local trail race after being stuck in traffic. “I’d heard so many great reports about the event that not even starting after the others had gone off and realising I had taken road shoes could keep me from running,” Tammy Wilson told runABC. In the end, Tammy’s shoe mix-up caused her to take a bad fall about 800m from the finish, but she still managed to cross the line as second female. “Being late gave me the opportunity to approach that race with a different mind set – enjoyment,” she concluded. “Sometimes you’ve got to just go out there and see what happens.”

Keep the bigger picture in mind
It’s natural to feel disappointed when you don’t achieve your goals. But it’s also important to maintain a sense of perspective – and a sense of humour. Even if your ‘event of a lifetime’ went down the pan, there will be other races. Take heart from the fact that even if the day itself went badly, the hours of training you put in are still in the bag, ready to be pulled out for your next event. No disaster can take that away from you!