And Now What I Didn’t Tell You About the Sub-Three Marathon

It happens at the end of every marathon.  People who seem so strong and confident are humbled by their hubris and end up on the side of the road.

What started out as a journey with the best intentions, crumbles with everyone watching.

This past training cycle in the build up to my breakthrough race in Phoenix, I was figuratively and quite literally, on the side of the road at mile 19.

I didn’t want to post about the struggles I was having with my motivation and some of my workouts going into this, not because I didn’t want to be honest, but because I didn’t want sympathy.

I was in a place where I didn’t want to be cheered up.  I just wanted to get it over with.

Everyone at some point has low days where you just don’t want to do the training.  You either forgive yourself and rest or you ignore your grumpy mood and just get on with it.

More often than not, I chose the second.

But with the cold, dark days of winter dampening my spirits more and more often, I was starting to wonder why I signed up for this at all.

I wasn’t having fun.

So I cut workouts and just ran easy.  I ran less than usual.  I took extra breaks during the workouts I did do.  I missed a lot of splits and didn’t really care.  I was less strict with my diet and was 3-5 pounds heavier than what I’ve always considered to be my “race weight.”

And on my very last long run that was supposed to be 22 miles, I just stopped at 19.  I was done.  That would have to be good enough.

Turns out, it was.

It was not all doom and gloom.  I did have some bright spots, like when my mom dropped me off at top of a mountain on a snowy day and I flew down the closed road for 22 miles.  Or the tough 2 x 6 miles at faster than marathon pace workout that I had to do on the treadmill which went better than I could have guessed.

So when those few confidence-building moments came, I tried to hold on to that spark for as long as I could.  My goal was very reasonable; I only wanted to run 30 seconds faster than I ever had in my life.

As the race got closer, I imagined how I could rise above what was trying to bring me down.  A cold winter and a less-than-ideal cycle didn’t have to stop me from achieving my big dream.

The symbol of the phoenix rising above the ashes became my visual mantra those last few weeks and during the race itself.  It didn’t matter how I was feeling or what my mood was.  I would rise above.

The reason I want to share this side of my ultimately happy story is because sometimes your training logs don’t tell the whole story.  No one wants to bring people down with pitiful Strava posts.  We want to be sunny and encouraging to each other.

But life and training is messy.  Cold and clouds affect even the happiest person.

Sometimes running sucks.

The other lesson that I’m embracing is that perfection is overrated.  I didn’t need to run more miles, do more workouts, or lose more weight.  In fact, maybe not doing those things was a part of my success.

Ultimately, just showing up every day was what mattered most.

When we share in each other’s triumphs, in running and in life, it’s easy to think that it’s all sunny and summery.

But it probably isn’t.

We’ve all found ourselves at the side of some road at some point.

The trick is knowing that eventually, you can get back on that road and keep running.

 

11 Replies to “And Now What I Didn’t Tell You About the Sub-Three Marathon”

  1. I appreciate your honesty and am experiencing that a lot these days as life is busy and running less fun due to more treadmill hours and a new job. I know it is a phase, but I was glad to see you had those same days and overcame them with a super marathon! Congrats again
    1. I think it's important to share the down times as well as the good. We don't need to dwell or complain too long, but knowing that we are not alone is essential. Best of luck with your training and race, Todd. See you Saturday?
  2. Amanda Haselden says: Reply
    I love this so much, and needed it right now. Perfectionism is something I always struggle with, and I have a hard time wrapping my brain around giving up on things that could potentially end up becoming train wrecks if I don't let them go and move on. I definitely look up to you and what you do in running, and while I know it sucks sometimes to feel this way, it's encouraging to know that even those we think so highly of struggle with the same things us "mortals" do. Thank you for being so open and honest. Whether you realize it or not, it is a HUGE encouragement for us to look past those "failures" and know that we can STILL be on the path to success, despite them. Thank you, Claire!
    1. I am certainly very mortal! I knew I wanted to share this story, but I felt it better to wait until I was on the other side of it instead of during. Perfection is always an illusion and "good enough" is usually just that! You are definitely on the right path, Amanda!
  3. So proud of you (if you can say that of your coach :)) and greatly encouraging. After streaks of great training I am so aware that rough patches WILL come. For this I will definitely keep your post in mind! Again -congrats AND I hope your love of running will arise to 100% (again) which I am sure it will once the marathon is somewhat away.
    1. Thank you, Steffen. The love of running is still very deep and strong, but I need a little absence to make my heart grow fonder!
  4. This is my story...except for the successful race part.
  5. Claire, Thank you. This is such an honest and important post to all of us out there that feel the same way at some point during training, the year, or a season. Running is so healthy for the soul in so many life aspects however, there are days, weeks, or sometimes months that we just don’t feel motivated or we even like what we’re doing! If we hang in there another day, the sun eventually does come out and we remember why we fell in love in the first place. Thank you for your openness - it makes us feel like we’re not so alone. ❤️
    1. I'm glad it spoke to you, Meg! I feel it's important to be honest in a way that is not complaining or self-pitiful, but to show that it's not all rainbows and butterflies. The ups wouldn't be as magical without some of the downs!
  6. Colleen Balling says: Reply
    Thank you for this wonderful post, Coach Claire. Your honesty about the struggle and your optimism in pushing through the yuck is incredibly inspiring. As a new runner, at my age, I sometimes think that younger, faster, more experienced runners just have everything fall into place and don't struggle with motivation. Certainly they would NEVER cut a workout short! And that makes me tend to be very hard on myself when I don't follow my plan exactly. I'm super proud of not only your sub3 but also of your attitude and willingness to be so open and vulnerable. Perfect combination of truth and tenacity!
    1. You are too kind, Colleen! It's so funny that no matter what our age or our paces, we all go through the same things, don't we? Running is such a perfect metaphor for life.

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