3 Tips for Running Your Own Race



"Runners tend to be dissatisfied - with how fast they are, with how far they are able to go. 
While it's good to want to improve, you also need to value the runner you are today. 
While running, think about all the good you are doing in that moment - 
strengthening muscles, producing endorphins, taking time for yourself. 
Appreciation for running creates a healthy self-identity, no matter what chaos is in your life."

-Jennifer Armstrong w/ Mary Kibiloski & The Sakyong, from Runner's World Magazine (April 2013)

As soon as I officially signed up for my first marathon, I started going crazy reading blogs, articles, and anything else I could get my hands on about running. And let me tell you: there is a LOT. Shocking, I know. 

Running blogs and websites and articles--you name it, it's out there, and it's very easy to get caught up in the excitement and competition of it all and start comparing yourself to everyone else. 

At the start of the year, I made a profile on dailymile.com, which has been fun to log my workouts and keep track of all the running I've been doing (214 miles so far this year!). 

I knew, however, that it wasn't going to be any fun until I realized that I needed to stop worrying about all the miles everyone else was running and focus on myself. (Is anyone else excited that sometimes it's okay to be self-centered?) As I logged my workouts and saw what others were posting, it seemed like everyone was doing a better, faster, longer, harder workout than me. Those first few weeks I wondered if I was doing enough. 

Luckily, I realized the potential problem and nipped it in the bud before it became an actual problem. My biggest fear is that I will never actually make it to the marathon starting line in April due to an overuse injury. They say 40% of first-time marathoners don't get to run their first, often due to an overuse injury.

What I had to remember (and what I have to keep reminding myself even still) is that no matter what anyone else is doing, I have a plan that's right for me. 

Here are the main things I focus on that are helping me to run my own race and not anyone else's. Whether you're just starting out or are in the middle of training, I think these are always good reminders. 
  • You don't have to run every day
My marathon training plan calls for running 3 days/week. There are plans out there for 4 days, 5 days, etc. But I knew that 3 days was a realistic and achievable goal for my lifestyle. I run twice during the week (usually Tues/Thurs) and then once on the weekends. I add in cross-training when I can or want to, but this way I don't feel like marathon training is taking over my life, and I'm not stressed out about having to go out and run all the time. 
    Just because someone else is going out every day doesn't mean you have to. Stick to the plan.
    • You don't have to run far every time
    For the most part, during the week I plan for two 5-mile runs. Sometimes it's hard not to think I should do more when I see a post on dailymile or hear someone say, "I ran such and such many miles yesterday" or, "I'm running such and such many miles later today." But whether it's less, more, or the same as what I scheduled for, I'm do not change my plan. 

    Changing the plan is exactly how you overdo it and injure yourself. Be confident, listen to your body, and don't go out and run 2 or 3 extra miles just because someone else is. (Unless you really want to.)

    *Oh, and one more thing: never use the word only when you talk about your miles. Saying you "only" ran 3 miles is ridiculous. Just because someone else ran 6 or 10 or 15 does NOT make your 3 miles any less impressive. You are accomplishing someone huge, and you are selling yourself short when you say "only."
    • You don't have to run fast every time

    This is the toughest one for me, because I am extremely competitive. Just like it's hard not to feel like I should do more miles, it's hard not to try to run faster. More than a few times I've heard someone say they were running at a "slow" pace, and their slow pace was fast for me! I know I've also made other people feel that same way when I say I ran "slow." 

    I talked some about race pace here, but the main thing I try to remember is that everyone is different, and I need to train for the race I want to run--and that includes some slow runs. 

    Not every training run has to be or SHOULD be done at a blazing speed. There is a lot to be said for recovery runs at a slower pace just to get the cardio and stretch your legs. This is not speed work, and if you run every training run the fastest you can, you will burn out. Save the fast times for tempo runs and, of course, the race. 

    So that's what has been helping me stay focused on running my race these past 10 weeks for marathon training! 
    Catch up on my weekly training recaps here

    What is your biggest struggle when it comes to running your own race? 

    Follow on Bloglovin
    Claire@MyDevising said...

    I definitely think it's hard for me not to get caught up in how fast (NOT fast) I am. I think becoming satisfied with your own pace is a huge lesson I've learned. But it's way more fun that way!

    meghan said...

    This is a great post with three important lessons. I think the one about running slow is the one we all struggle with. I've learned recently how important it is to run slowly. It honestly sounds like from a lot of people that running slowly on certain runs during the week is just as important as running quickly on other runs. And DailyMile is great. I love it, but you're absolutely right that it can lead to you comparing yourself with others. I see other people's paces and wonder how that can be an "easy" run for them or why I can't run as many miles after having done a certain workout the day before. I think I'm slowly learning these lessons as well. And, I know several people who follow plans with 3 days of running per week and do very well with it. I think what you said about making it fit into your lifestyle is what is the most important when tackling something like marathon training. Nice job keeping it all in perspective. Have a wonderful weekend!

    Anonymous said...

    Another note about the "only" rule (that I've learned from letting others make me feel inadequate in this way) is that, not only might you be selling yourself short, you might be making whomever you're talking to feel bad because your "only" number might be a number they can't do at all, or a number that is a huge accomplishment for them.

    (I had a boyfriend who was running a race, and the options were 10 miles, 20 miles, and like 30-some miles. He did the 10 mile that day, even though he had previously run the 50. When people asked him which one he did, he kept answering, "Only the 10 mile." And that really pissed me off because 10 miles is a heck of a lot of effort for me, and I thought it was insensitive that he would say that in front of me.)


    Ashley @ embracing the everyday said...

    Great tips! I just recently got into running, and the most I've done so far is 5k (I haven't done an official race though, even though I want to, just running solo). I made it my "standard" to run at least 1 mile whenever I'm at the gym, and sometimes I'll do more, sometimes not! I'm really competitive too, so it's hard not to always be trying to go farther and improve my time!

    Jessah @ Dreaming of Dimples said...

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Love these running tips. Good luck with your marathon!

    Alyson said...

    This was such a great post for me to read as I am starting to get back into running again. I forget how much I enjoy it. Just me, the pavement, my music, and my thoughts.. few things are better:)

    I am a slow runner. And I am okay with that. But when I have a SIL and BIL who are Ironman triathletes and run sub 3 hour marathons, I sometimes find myself feeling less of a runner because I will never amount to what they can do. But then I have to remind myself, that is them not me. I run because it makes me feel good, not to compete. A mile at 12mins is the same as a mile at 6mins, just takes me a little longer:)