I don’t know many people who don’t enjoy recapping their race experience. Whether it’s a local 5k or a major marathon, don’t we all love to give the play-by-play on the group cool-down, in our training logs or in a formal race report? Even when things don’t go as well as we hoped we like to do a postmortem to figure out what we did wrong and when things go well, it’s glorious to recap that experience!
But when we’re talking about our race report, there is one sentence we should never utter. It’s a sentence I have heard many times from others and a sentence I, myself am guilty of saying. In fact, I was perusing my training log from a few years ago and saw I wrote this very sentence when describing a race. This sentence is not only counterproductive, it’s often just plain disingenuous. And yes, I’m making you read on to find out what that sentence is!
I could have run faster.
When I read this in my training log, my first thought was: well, then why didn’t you?
What I really believe I and others are saying when we say this is: I am so much better than this time indicates.
One problem with saying I could have run faster is that race results don’t lie. When you say you could have run faster, either you ran as hard as you could and you’re just wishing your time was faster or you intentionally sand-bagged and couldn’t be bothered to run faster, yet you’re claiming a faster result. More often than not, the reason people like three-years-ago-me say this is because they wish they ran faster.
Another problem with saying I could have run faster is that it’s a disincentive to make improvements in your training or race strategy to actually run faster next time. By simply saying I could have run faster, we claim the better result without having to do anything to actually get it. It ends the conversation. However, there are more productive statements that we can make that are similar to I could have run faster that are more honest and helpful to improving next time.
– With a few tweaks to my race strategy, I believe I can run even faster next time. Fix: Make those tweaks on your next go-round!
– I held back more than I hoped early on and had a lot left in the tank at the end. Fix: Go out harder next time.
– I really thought I was capable of running a faster time, but I just couldn’t do it today. Fix: Dust yourself off and race again, chalking this one up to an off day.
– My head wasn’t in it and I just couldn’t focus enough to push myself as hard as I needed to to race my best. Fix: Work on your mental game for next time.
If you want to be the best runner you can be, next time you give a race recap and feel yourself wanting to say I could have run faster, dig deeper. If you made mistakes note them so you can not make them again. If you had an off day, note that to see if there was anything you could do differently to feel better next time. If you realize you think you’re fitter than the result indicates, think hard why the result isn’t what you had hoped, but don’t claim that faster result without actually earning it. It won’t do you any good.
Have you ever said you could have run faster after a race? Are there other race recap sentence no-nos you can think of?