I had a moment at the end of a 5-mile race this past weekend where I let my fear of failing (or what in my mind I define as 'failure') overcome what should have been a celebration at the finish line with my amazing boyfriend. I went in to the race underprepared for a 'sprint'....I've been training for distances that are multiples of 5-miles, and didn't get my head in the game enough. I knew I was going to run back with my boyfriend as he competed in his longest race to date. What I wasn't prepared for was the wave of emotion at the finish, when we both surged to cross the line, and I remembered that I am terrible at sprinting and usually don't have much left in the tank to kick out the last 200 meters because I've left most of it out on the distance courses.
This was a huge learning moment for me. Instead of feeling disappointment in what I perceived as a failure (watching my boyfriend -- who by his own account would never say he is a runner -- surge ahead and toe the finish just ahead of me), I need to look at this as a training moment, a reminder that while I KNOW I can easily run 5-miles (probably in my sleep at this point) training really has an influence on your output depending on distances. I'm not training for short course running, not even training for half marathon distance (though I'm fairly certain I could crush my PR right now) but training for the long, slow, deliberate distances of 26.2 and beyond.
Friends in the ultra community might still classify a marathon as a sprint, but for me, just breaking in to this super long distance category, everything is new to me. The emotions I feel every day on my runs varies, and its a reality check every time I lace up my shoes and hit the pavement (or more frequently, the dirt).
In a consolation to myself this morning -- I ran 6.5 miles this morning and you wouldn't believe it, but I actually ran faster than my 5-mile race this weekend. Guess its really is all mental :)
Keep your head in the game everyone. Whatever your goals are, don't ever let a single race ruin what good things you have going for you, and the strong base you have been building in your training programs. We're all human. We're all competitive to some degree (either with ourselves or others....some way more than others too!) but we must remember that the running journey is inherently individual. Run. Have fun. Laugh a little.