Posted by: Joe English | March 14, 2011

Training — When are you Really Committed to a Marathon?

I get lots of e-mail requests here at that usually involve an injury or some other disruption in training and they almost always include the following language, “I’m already committed to doing this marathon” and then they ask “what should I do?” I typically jump in an answer the question by suggesting changes to their goals in the race or their training leading up to it, but I really have to pause and ask, when (oh when) are we really committed to a particular marathon?

There are cases, I would agree when you really have made a commitment to do a particular race. A couple that might come to mind are: you’ve booked non-refundable airfare and hotel arrangements in someplace exotic like Beijing; you’ve organized a family reunion around a race 200 of your friends and family are flying in for it; or perhaps you’re running for a charity or in honor of someone you’ve lost — I’ll come back to this last one later.

The thing is that in most cases, my advice when you’ve been laid off running for say two months is going to be something you don’t really like. I might suggest that if you’ve haven’t completed your training that you walk the marathon (many runners hate this suggestion) or that you go to the race as a specatator and watch instead (which even more runners hate). I did the later myself in 2004 after spraining an ankle a few weeks before my first Boston Marathon. I wasn’t going to be able to run, but I went anyway and enjoyed the weekend as a specatator (it was acutally more fun than the next time when I ran the race). The bottom-line is that our advice when you’re not ready to run a race is. . . not to run the race or to take a deeply discounted goal and go do what you ARE prepared to do.

I’ll often suggest to runners that they also switch to a later race, complete there training and just let this one go. But this is where the “I’m already committed” to doing this race comes in. And in many cases, there is no big obvious reason like those I cite above. It’s just more a matter of wanting to do this particular race.

So why is it so hard to let go of a particular race. Well, I think its the fact that we’ve set a goal to do that particular race and in our minds letting go of that goal becomes tantamount to admitting failure – failure to complete a goal that we’ve set for ourselves, failure to overcome an injury, failure to live up to the dream of being immune to the obstacles that are thrown in our way.

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