Friday, October 16, 2009

Advice on your first race for beginner long distance runners

On Being A “Slow” Beginner

I felt so strong and accomplished after I crossed the finish line at my first half marathon, but when I got my race results back, I was disappointed for a few hours. There were several hundred finishers before me and about a hundred after me.

My body was still proud of its achievement, but my brain was asking ‘what if?’ What if I ran a little faster in the beginning, what if I didn’t walk at the rest stops and stretch out my aching hip flexor and knee?

Every beginning and beginning-again runner wants to be fast, but not every race is about the clock. When we train to go beyond what we think are our limits, whether that is running a half marathon or a 10K race, running the race is the goal and crossing the finish line is the reward.

For me, the meaning of exercise is to feel strong in my body and spirit. Working my muscles and sweating makes me feel joyful. After an hour of running or cycling or yoga, I am fully present in my body and every cell is happy to be alive. I put my strength of body and spirit to the test by organizing my workouts into a training regimen that will empower me to compete in athletic events.

My first half marathon was about the experience of pushing myself beyond what I assumed were my ‘limits’ and I reached that goal. Beginning runners, let your races be about exploring your ‘limits’ and enjoying the healthy body that your training delivers, not just how fast you can carry a chip on your shoelace from the start line to the finish.

In his speech at the TED Conference, Alain de Botton offers insight on his 'kinder, gentler philosophy of success.' Botton is speaking about success in our careers, but I found that I was able to make many comparisons to my running as well.

Who is in charge of defining your running goals? You? A page of results from last year's race or another runner's PR?

Do you judge other runners based on their finishing times? If you think you don't, would you take advice from a runner that was slower than you?

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