October 20, 2017
OK, so I am not going to lie, this is a difficult post to write. I have been putting off writing it all week.
So here goes…
In all my years of racing I had never not showed up for a race I have signed up for. Not once. If it is in my diary I do it. Obviously if I was injured or unwell I’d not race, but luckily for me that had never happened to me in more than 12 years of racing.
I almost managed to miss a race earlier this year, I’d had the Cardiff Half Marathon in my diary for months but just failed on the technicality of actually booking and paying for an actual space. It was only the day before I was due to jump on a train I realised I didn’t have a race packet, and upon phoning them realised my mistake. Luckily they resolved it for me and all ended up well.
So, the Cardiff half was due to be my last half marathon race before my 4th Marathon attempt. Cardiff however marked the third big race in 3 weeks in 3 different countries, off the back of what had been a challenging summer.
I was knackered.
My plan said all the right things, and I was pretty much keeping on top of the plan. I even arranged for regular paid childcare on a Wednesday so I could get back to my old running clubs weekly training runs.
But something wasn’t right.
I turned up one night to run 5 miles with the running club, and after less than a mile I couldn’t run any further. My knees were aching, but more than that I had no gas in the tank. So I turned round and walked back down the hill I had just climbed back to my car.
I wasn’t overly stressed, I just put it down to fatigue as I had been at a conference the weekend before and was just a bit busy with personal stuff.
A few days later I headed out for a long run to test the old legs, and get some distance under my belt and although I felt stronger, by about 3 miles something in my head went and I stopped by a big old tree…yes very dramatic I know and I thought, Julie what the hell are you doing.
You are 3 weeks out from a marathon and you haven’t run more than 13 miles.
That weekend was scheduled to be my longest run, which I knew was cutting it fine, but there was simply no way this was going to happen. The fact I hadn’t made any travel or accommodation arrangements was either very telling of my desire to actually run this race, or simply a blessing in disguise.
In the back of my head I had always had concerns about training through the summer for a race, as all of my previous marathons had been Spring ones, but I had managed to run 42 miles of Spitfire Scramble, so my goal for this marathon was imply to get round and enjoy the atmosphere and the views.
But as I walked the couple of miles home feeling deflated I knew it was the only sensible choice I could make. I had to accept this marathon was not to be. I had to pull out.
Failure? Or plain common sense?
I guess it depends on how you view failure.
Ellen DeGeneres puts it perfectly
When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.
Making the decision to DNS, meaning “Did Not Start” the initials that are placed next to your name on the race results, is a big one. It is never taken lightly.
Writing this with just a week to the race I still think in my hearts of hearts that I could cover the distance, but at what cost?
Women often ask me at what point do you decide not to do a race, and my answer has always been that only you can decide that. There are so many considerations, so many thought processes, so many factors
The things I always consider are…
1. What the initial goal was?
2. If another worthwhile goal is still achievable?
3. Have I done this distance or race before?
4. Is this potentially damaging to my physical or mental health?
5. Am I going to be able to enjoy any of it?
I try not to take into consideration things like
• The cost of the race entry
• The cost of accommodation and travel that might have been booked
• The waste of training (training is never a waste)
• What other people might think
• Letting other people down
And the reason is, running a race, especially a marathon is something that only you can do. Nobody else can run it for you. It might feel like it sometimes, but one race does not define you. It is just one milestone in your running career…and there is always the potential for more.
I think that fact I had never pulled out of a race before has made me really think about this issue, and I have an enormous sense of relief now I don’t need to run around trying to sort out childcare or spend next week getting myself in the zone.
I guess whenever you sign up for a race there is always the possibility that you might not start or finish. It comes with the territory, and where possible we should prepare ourselves for it.
But it still kind of hurts.
I think though this time the “What’s the worst that could happen?” outweigh my “but this could be awesome thoughts” and at this stage in my running career, and life I feel like I have nothing to prove.
For at least a week I was toing and froing with the decision, and the moment I made it, I could exhale, make peace with it and get on with other things…like finishing my upcoming book, “The Fat Girls Guide to Marathon Running” which is due out on the 6th November.
In my head it made perfect sense to tie in training for and running my latest marathon with the publishing of my first book on this topic, on reflection maybe I didn’t think about the added psychological and practical pressure this would put on me.
When I asked the ladies in The clubhouse about this they said it was important that the book covered this aspect of marathon running, some people do not get to the finish line…some don’t even get to the start line.
J.K. Rowling reminds us,
Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.
Well at least now I can write with authority about the reality of races not always going your way, although I promise that was not the reason for pulling out. I am still gutted that Beachy Head 2017 was not to be.
Another marathon next year perhaps?
Well, London is a no for me as I am currently training up 20 or so women to run a range of Spring Marathons (We still have places on this programme if you are quick), but I do have a sneaky eye on running New York City Marathon in my 40th year…that sounds pretty cool right?
It is the ONLY race, other than London which I have been lucky enough to do twice that I will be really sad not to have tackled when all this running malarkey comes to a stop.
But for now, I am going to take a few weeks off with no pressure to do much distance running, and focus on shorter distances and getting back into CrossFit which I have been neglecting of late.
I will leave the final word to Oprah,
Failing is another steppingstone to greatness.
Maybe I will look back at this and see it as the point where I refocus and set a whole new approach to my marathon training, and Beachy Head one day I will come visit you…maybe just for a picnic instead of a 26.2 mile run though.