Lessons From My Surprise 10k PR

All smiles with our age group awards.

In college I ran a 5,000 meter PR in the first meet of my sophomore indoor track season and allowed it to be completely overshadowed by a disappointing second place finish. I thought I had won the race due to confusing lap traffic on a 200 meter track and didn’t learn until a few hours later that I’d finished in second place.

I could easily fill a post with stories similar to these.ย  Maybe I set my goals too high, or maybe I’m too hard on myself, but I am rarely satisfied with a PR.ย  I haved obsessed about seconds. (Why couldn’t 5:26 have been 5:21? After all, 5:21 sounds more impressive than 5:26…) But when I had an unexpected 10k PR at the Minster Oktoberfest, suddenly the clouds parted and I had an epiphany.In this one race, I not only felt a sense of redemption for the training abyss otherwise known as the year 2012, I also felt the PR-satisfaction that had become so rare and remembered a few oft-forgotten running lessons.

YOU ARE FITTER THAN YOU THINK

For months prior to this race, I had a rather sulky attitude towards competitive running. I listened longingly as my teammates talked about team championships, upcoming winter/spring track meets, and OTQ marathon opportunities. I listened and hoped, and secretly worried that I would never be that runner again. Instead of a winter base, I had laps in the pool and miles on the bike. Instead of my usual summer routine of 10-12 runs a week, I had weekly mileage topping out at 50-60 miles.

I needed this race. I needed it to remind me that although I may not have leaped forward, I really didn’t lose much ground on my long-term running goals. I needed it to remind me that downtime and setbacks are instrumental in building fitness. I needed this race to renew my faith in running.

HAVE FUN

Is that a smile I see? On the starting line??

This race reminded me that running is FUN! And the most influential lesson any runner can learn is to always have fun. After all if you aren’t having fun, why do this? Why spend so much free time doing something if you don’t enjoy it?

In the past, I’ve allowed pressure and (self-imposed) expectations to stifle me with fear. I’ve also been able to convert pressure and expectations into confidence and opportunity. But I can probably count on one hand the number of races I have run with zero expectations. And you know what? Those races always turn out well. Why? Without the pressure of a certain finishing time or place, I was able to simply enjoy running.

Now, truthfully, I went in to this race with a very loose goal of running a <39:50 to renew my spot on my team roster. But I viewed it more as an option than an absolute. Similar to my approach to my attempt at a 2:46 marathon. This is what I want. Maybe I’ll get there, maybe I won’t, but I’m going to have fun trying. And I had fun with every step of this 10 kilometer run.

And so a new race-favorite was born. Minster Oktoberfest 10k. I had fun. I PR’d. And, for the first time in a long time, I was happy with my PR!

Could it be that letting loose and reducing the gravity of our expectations are the keys to a perfect-race?

I'm a pediatric physical therapist by day. Running mostly early am miles as I balance life as the mom of a toddler. With PR days in the past, my primary running goal is to be a lifelong runner. With 20+ years behind me, I still love the sport and I am truly grateful for every day I get to run.

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5 comments

  1. Great post, and spot on for so many of us! “I can probably count on one hand the number of races I have run with zero expectations. And you know what? Those races always turn out well. Why? Without the pressure of a certain finishing time or place, I was able to simply enjoy running.” I love this.

    I ran the Columbus Marathon yesterday as a training run for an upcoming 50 miler. After a summer/fall of illness that sidelined any “good” training I could have done, and little marathon specific training at all, I went into the race with no expectations. Sure, I didn’t PR, but running with out a Garmin and for fun was freeing. I had what a thought was a LONG-shot goal for the race, <4:00, and ended up running a 3:50 which included a couple minutes to stop and talk to a patient champion at mile 18! I realized that I will be that fast (for me) marathon runner again, once that is where I put my focus.

    As runners, we get so caught up in PR's that we forget why we run. Because we love it–plain and simple. Sounds like yesterday was a day for many of us to be reminded of that! Congrats on your PR!

  2. I completely agree with this too and think we should make an effort to run a race without expectation at least once a season if possible. It is very freeing and often very confidence-building too.

    Big congrats on that PR.

    And congrats to Rachel on an awesome Columbus Marathon.

  3. There is a sports psychology principle (I guess you’d call it) called detachment from results. Apparently, focusing on the present task at hand – running – rather than fixating on the end result – finishing time – is the key to our best performances. So this totally makes sense to me! Now if only we could always be this detached, relaxed and go-with-the-flow ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Congrats on a great race! I love the lessons you found here. I think it’s such a good reminder that while the time is important to us, it’s not the only thing that matters!