Non-PR Race Day Goals
I’m back. Yep, for the first time on Monday, I ran again. It wasn’t long or fast or glamorous (except the epic sunrise), but I ran and did so without wanting to puke which was an achievement in itself.
Now that it doesn’t feel like I am being stabbed in the stomach with every step I take, it’s time to start training for my upcoming fall races. Not only do I have Ragnar Relay Adirondacks coming up at the end of September but I also have Vino and the Beasts this month and the Syracuse Half Marathon in November.
Typically my goals are time focused – either beat my overall best (PR) or run a course personal best. I say typically because there have been some exceptions. Depending on the course, how I feel race day and even the weather, sometimes they change. As a runner you have to be flexible and while a PR is always a great accomplishment, there are goals and achievements that aren’t time related that can be just as rewarding.
Take on a new distance.
Running a new distance is an accomplishment all by itself – having a goal time can overshadow that achievement. If you’ve never raced a 10k or half marathon before, let finishing the race be your biggest win without the pressure of a goal time.
Take in the scenery.
But can’t you do that while you’re racing? Sure, but it’s not the same. There are some courses that are flat, fast and boring, save the PR goals for them. Races like Ragnar Relay and even Disney races are designed to be taken in.
One of my biggest regrets the first time I ran Ragnar Relay Adirondacks was not taking pictures. I was so concerned with passing the slap bracelet off to the next runner as fast as I could that I missed out on one of the best parts of the experience. If you’ve registered for a scenic course, do yourself a favor and take it in. Enjoy the rolling hills or the cherry blossoms or characters in costume. Take mental pictures, snap a selfie, do whatever you can to capture the moment.
Feed off the atmosphere.
If you’ve ever attended a popular or big race, you’ll know that there is a kind of energy in the atmosphere. It can be intoxicating, adrenaline inducing and exciting, especially the first time you experience it. I remember when I ran Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas that there was this electric feeling in the air. It was my first EVER half marathon and my first ever RnR. I fed off the energy from the crowd; the signs, the high fives, the cheers. It was almost magical.
A handful of half marathons later and I could still feel that energy but my focus on a PR or time took away from it. So when I ran Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooklyn this past year, I made a point to find my 13.1 miles of motivation from the race atmosphere again. Not only did it make the race FUN but it made me fall in love with running again and remember why I became so addicted to racing in the first place.
Run the tangents.
Run the what? The tangents – running the shortest distance possible (without cheating). I’ve made the mistake more than once of weaving around so much that I actually ADD a significant amount of distance onto the course. If you want to practice running your best race possible, try running tangents while you’re not concerned with your time. Instead of bobbing, weaving and following the crowd, make an effort to run the inside line on every turn.
Pace a friend.
If you’ve been running for a while and have friends who caught the running bug and are eager to join you at a race then pacing them is a fun way to enjoy it together. Not only will you be providing support and motivation but it will also help you to recognize how to properly run and pace future goal races.
Another non-PR race day goal could be to practice and pay attention to your fueling. I’ve done this with half marathons before while training for a fall marathon. Use the race as an opportunity to see how your fueling strategy actually works. Try to stay on a fueling schedule and practice hydrating from water stations with the goal of finishing the race without GI issue or spilling from the cups 😉 (Ps. pinching the cups before you drink from them helps to avoid unnecessary spills).
Finish feeling strong.
Just because you’re not racing against the clock doesn’t mean that you can’t finish strong. If you’re running the tangents and practicing fueling then top it off with a strong finish. If you’ve fueled properly, paced yourself (without killing yourself) and ran the tangents then topping it off with a strong finish is the ultimate cherry on top.
Too many times I have nearly injured or killed (ok, just injured) myself fighting to get to the finish. Doing so, I ruin those rewarding moments after crossing the line and it’s not always worth it. Of course there are going to be races where “killin’ it” to PR is what it’s all about but being able to relish in your accomplishment without wanting to die is not so bad either 😉
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