Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It's all relative

Over the last few days I've read at least three race recaps from the Portland Marathon, and it is interesting to compare the different perspectives on the race itself and especially, each runner's performance.

One woman finished in just over three hours, and was crushed because she didn't meet her goal of breaking three hours. Another finished in just over four hours, and was okay with that because she ran an easy, fun race--but also couldn't help but note that this was a "personal worst" and the first time she had run a marathon in over four hours. A third took more than six hours to finish, but was happy with the experience.

And then there was me, who finished in 4:15, only my third fastest (or fourth slowest) marathon, but I was almost as happy with this marathon as I was with CIM, my sub-four, Boston Qualifying marathon. (Almost as happy, but nothing will ever beat that CIM in 2009.) And I was far happier than after Newport, which I did in 4:10 but was quite disappointed because I had hoped to beat four hours.

Each one of us ran the same race course on Sunday, but very different races. Each one of us has far different abilities and different goals, and view ourselves through our own personal lenses. A mediocre time to one would be a huge victory or even a miracle to others...a crushing "failure" to one would be a time undreamt of by any of us others. My 4:15 was "good" to me, would be "great" to many others, but would be a humiliating failure to someone who expected to be a lot faster.

My perspective on Portland and marathons in general is shaped by my experience of running now six marathons, with a wide spectrum of finish times and experiences. My CIM experience was amazing and wonderful, but it set a standard and expectations that proved impossible to live up to over the last two years. After some disappointments of my own, and some hard marathons, I went into Portland with a viewpoint molded by my past races.

I had a goal of 4:10 (not even a PR goal), and I didn't meet it. Am I heartbroken? Not at all. After two marathons in which I didn't even beat 4:30, I can see that 4:15 is a good time for someone of my abilities. I could do better (under some circumstances), but I could also do worse. I ran a smart, steady race, most of my splits were between 9:20-9:40, and but for a few flukes (which I am sure I will spell out in my future race report), I would have been very close to that goal time and an average pace of 9:30. I felt pretty good throughout (considering that I was running a marathon and all), and when I relieve sections of the race in my mind (which I do frequently), it is with enjoyment, not regrets.

I have on many occasions expressed disappointment over race times, paces, performances in general. I know that other runners out there run faster than me, and slower than me. If I say that a 25-minute 5K is a failure (well, I wouldn't do that, but I might say a 27-minute 5K is a failure), I mean that only relative to myself. I am not trying to set a standard for someone who would be excited to beat 30 minutes, or 35 minutes, nor am I expecting to compare myself to someone who is trying to break 20 minutes. I don't mean to disparage others when I suggest that running a marathon over 4:30 would be a disappointment to me. It would, but that doesn't mean that I am "disappointed in" others who run slower. I can't even say that I won't ever run a 4:30+ marathon myself again. (I can hope that I won't, but if I plan on continuing to run marathons over the years, it's probably inevitable.)

My next marathon is the Tucson Marathon in early December. I can't predict what I expect to happen there. I need to get in a few weeks of resumed training before I start building plans for Tucson. (I am waiting to run again until Friday.) While my Portland time is a building block for my expectations, there are so many other factors that will come into play by December. For now, one day at a time is good enough.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Alma said...

Nice post ;)

Elizabeth said...

Wonderful post. One person's slow is another person's fast. The time doesnt matter nearly as much as the experience but we get hung up on it because it's the most concrete takeaway.