Posted by: Joe English | September 16, 2009

Commentary: Looking for the positive in a marathon gone astray

Joe English at the Queen City Marathon (photo:

Joe English at the Queen City Marathon (photo:

Sometimes you really need to look hard to find something positive in a marathon performance. Marathon running can be devilish in the many mental challenges that are thrown our way. When the marathon throws you curve-balls, its easy for us to put an extraordinary amount of pressure on ourselves in the way that we assess our performances. But thankfully, with a little perspective, we can get out from under that pressure and celebrate what we’ve really accomplished.

A marathon can grind you up and spit you out, and yet at some point you’ll come to the conclusion that you’re going to run another one. It might take awhile to get to that conclusion. But you do get there and I think it’s the power of the brain picking apart the performance and looking for those nuggets of gold that gets us there.

I’ve had a hard time the last few days trying to find much positive about my performance at the Queen City Marathon. I had a number of goals that I set for myself coming into the race and it feels like I didn’t accomplish any of them. But the question that I have to ask is whether these were really the goals that I had for myself or if these were guidelines that my brain set for me along the way to heighten my ability to compete.

Coming into race day, if you were to ask me what I hope to do in the marathon, I would have answered like this: hit my goal time; place in the top five overall; and, win my age group. Now, we shouldn’t set goals that are based on external factors (like winning an age group), but in my head I knew that if I hit my goal time that I would achieve these second two goals. So, how did I do? I missed my goal time by six minutes, I finished sixth overall and I placed fourth in my age group. Those are the things that have given me a hard time the last few days.

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