I’m in London to run the London marathon. I’ve trained differently for this race than I have trained for my other 11 marathons, and as a result I’m going into it quite unsure of the pace I will hold and the time I will end up with. I know I haven’t trained at the paces I have held for a marathon in previous training cycles, so I’m unlikely to get a PB tomorrow.
However, I’m not sandbagging. Make no mistakes people. I am racing tomorrow.
It’s so very tempting, when you are unsure of yourself, to deliver all the excuses in advance. Dampen down the expectations: in that way, if you don’t get your goal time, you don’t feel embarrassed in front of your friends and all those who follow you online. And if you do end up achieving your goal, you can feel super victorious that you have done better than everyone expected.
I’ve been at a few panel discussions and talked to women runners at the expo and everywhere I hear the same, self minimising talk “well, I’m not sure, maybe I can do this time, but I’m tired and I’m not sure I’ve done all the training”. Enough ladies. And enough Petra.
Because I’m as guilty as everyone else. I know, going into this, that tomorrow is unlikely to be a PB. And without really being conscious of it, I was all set to just phone the race in. Tell everyone I was going to be slow and then treat it like a long run with water stops. It’s safer that way, you see. Raise money for a good cause, who’d notice?
But I had an illuminating talk with my coach last week. Much stuff to chew on. (Including “sometimes you’re a goddamn afterthought in your own life” which I’m working with at the moment). But then she started talking about race prep. About staying off my feet, about hydration the day before, about getting my own room the night before the race. And I suddenly realised that she was telling me to take my race seriously even if I’m not that fast. And dammit. I realised that she was absolutely correct. And moreover, that tomorrow is NOT a long run with water stops. It’s a race.
Just because I’m not going to win the thing, or even beat times I’ve run in the past, doesn’t mean I am not going to work my butt off and race as hard as I can. And I can’t sit here, minimising my training and myself, and also race. I’ve got to sit here, own the work I have done, own the months I’ve trained for, the hard runs I got done and get my head round racing tomorrow.
Racing is different from training. When I train and run long, I amble. I stop for a pee and a view and a selfie (and recently even a flapjack and a latte). It’s time on my feet, and I’m good with that. But racing means starting off with a full tank and expending that fuel gradually. Use it all up too soon, and my tank will be empty before the race is over. But be too cautious and I’ll find myself crossing a finish line feeling there is still something left in me. It’s a fine balance and so much affects it, much of it not within my control. But the bits I do control, I will. I will be rested. I will be fuelled well. I will be hydrated. Have my tried and tested kit on. And I’m going to see how hard I can run, on this training and on this day. If the wheels come off, so be it. Then I will know I need to do something different next time.
There are many good times for strolling round London, but tomorrow is not that day.
(And for good measure, here’s some shots with ballsy women I’ve had the privilege of encountering in the past few days. Just in case I ever forget, these photos serve to remind me of how strong and powerful we all are, in all the iterations and phases of our life. Not because of the outcome of our races, but because of the passion and intensity and honesty and grit we put into them.).