How to Throw Out the Race Plan and Still Have Fun
A little over a week ago I ran the Boston Marathon, an achievement that took years of dedication and hard work. As you can imagine, I had wanted race day to be perfect; I had worked so hard for this one day in April, surely the weather gods, race plan gods, and speed gods would be on my side! Alas, race day was somewhat of a disaster but I did not go down without a fight! Through it all, I learned that it really is possible to deviate from (or throw out) your race plan and still have a great race.
Related: On Squeaking into Boston
Everything you’ve heard about the Boston Marathon is true.
The spectators are other-worldly. They fill the sides of every street, in towns smaller than I can wrap my head around, and they come out with a vengeance! Funny signs, blasting music, shots of beer, vaseline, orange slices, kissing co-eds, and even this guy – you’ll find it all in Boston. The support along the course is incredible and worth the pain of getting to the start line.
Related: How to Be a Good Marathon Spectator
The course is, as Katherine Switzer once called it, diabolical. For the first 10K or more, runners shoot downhill as the course dips down and up on small rolling hills. If you survive the painful descent and recover once the road smoothes out, you’ll be handsomely rewarded by the infamous series of ascents and descents at mile 16 known as the Newton Hills. Lest you think the pain is over by 21 when the course will coast down into Boston, think again! The remaining small rollers will zap any energy left in your legs but don’t worry, the finish line is every bit as epic as you would imagine. (I’ve truly never seen so many spectators in my entire life!)
And if all of that isn’t enough to alter your race plans, one final component will: weather. Boston is notorious for having flukey marathon day weather. On race day, I was graced with sunny, blue skies, and 71 degrees at the start. Other years, runners endure cold, rain, snow, or even hotter temperatures.
Last Monday, I lined up on the start line knowing all of these things to be true; the Boston Marathon can be cruel no matter how well you’ve trained. I put 6 years, 6 marathons, and countless 5 a.m. alarm clocks into this race; I refused to have a bad day.
So when I showed up on the line, the sun beating down, the temperature hovering about 20 degrees warmer than anything I had trained in, and a “diabolical” course ahead, I knew that I would need to deviate from my plan.
I threw out the whole race plan and focused on having fun.
It was a very hot day (and I’m terrible at running in hot weather) and I did not do nearly enough hill training. And yet, the crowds were boisterous, loud, and energetic; I caught my husband, family, and friends along the course; I high-fived the crap out of as many people as I could (warning: there are A LOT of people giving out high-fives!); I took orange slices from kind strangers; I leaped through sprinklers and hoses; and when it really started to hurt (and it really started to hurt) I ran with the biggest smile my face could muster!
I finished the Boston Marathon in a time of 3:50:08. It was not a PR, not even close, and it was more than 20 minutes slower than my (conservative) race plan. I missed all three of my A, B, and C goals but I could not care less. I finished the Boston Marathon. I achieved one of my big, audacious goals.
I threw out the plan and had fun!
How Do You Adjust Your Race Plan When Things Go Wrong?
Race day will never be perfect. How do you adjust your race plan and goals when things don’t go according to plan? Share in the comments below!