bridge to brews

Running from Behind: Adjusting Expectations

When it's finally time to head to the start of a race, what happens if something goes wrong and you realize mid-race (or even at the beginning) that your original race goals are unattainable that day? Similar to the importance of setting race goals (whether for time or fun), it is equally important to know what it takes for you to feel a sense of accomplishment regardless of what happens on race day. One of our favorite west coast runners, Maren Elliott, shares her strategy after she was forced to adjust her own race expectations midstride last week while running the Bridge to Brews 10k in Portland, Oregon. 

by Maren Elliott

Races don’t always go as planned . . . even when you’ve run hundreds of them.  

I am one of the runners at the front of the start – not on the start line, just far enough behind it that I can keep the leaders in sight.  I like to know where I am in a race, keeping count of how many women are in front of me knowing where I stand in relation to the competition.  This morning, my race did not go as planned.

Even before I showed up to the course things were off.  I missed the packet pick-up yesterday so I had to arrive earlier than I normally do the morning of a race so I could claim my number. 

Clothing was also an issue.  Tank top, short sleeves… I couldn’t choose so I compromised with myself and decided on a long-sleeve over a tank top, which I expected to check at the start.  In the midst of locating the bag check and then realizing that I didn’t bring a bag to put my clothing in, I heard the announcement for the first wave of runners to start. 

I looked over my shoulder toward the starting line and saw the first group of runners, my group of runners, sprinting away from me.  So I chased after them.  Dodging left and right to avoid the people waiting for their start, I crossed the start line alone scrambling to tie the unnecessary long-sleeve shirt around my waist.  Things were not looking good.

At the first mile mark I realized that I didn’t start my watch so I had no idea what pace I was running.  Mild panic set in. Was I going too fast?  Too slow?  Where was I in the pack?  Should I be further up? I might hit the wall. 

It wasn’t until I hit the second mile marker that I started to find my rhythm.  We were on the downhill slope of a hard climb and I had a spectacular view of Portland.   I realized that I felt fantastic.  Without a clue of how fast I was running or what my current place was, my body had gone into its zone and I was racing.   

The final four miles were challenging and I ran hard crossing the finish line with every last ounce of energy.  Even now sitting on the couch with ice on my quads I don’t know what my final time was or how I ranked against the other women.  But I know that I gave it everything.