I love football, and I love the Super Bowl – it’s a good excuse to get together with friends and hang out, eat a lot, and watch the big game. As a Buffalo Bills fan, I haven’t been able to cheer for my hometown team in the playoffs or the Super Bowl for most of my life, so I’ve always had to find ways to make the big day something I can relate to. Usually I pick a team to cheer for because one of my friends is rooting for them, or just because I can’t stand the other team.
But the Super Bowl isn’t just about food, beer, and cheering! We runners can learn something from the burly dudes in protective gear.
Experience is important, but it isn’t everything:
Going into the big game the New England Patriots had 32 players on their roster with Super Bowl experience and the second highest number of Super Bowl wins in the league (five). The Eagles came into the game with just six players on their roster with Super Bowl experience, and had never won a Super Bowl.
There’s also the quarterback situation: the Patriots’ Tom Brady (arguably the greatest of all time) with years of experience and five Super Bowl rings to back it up, versus…the Eagles’ backup quarterback, Nick Foles.
But ultimately, Brady’s vast experience didn’t win the game. It didn’t come down to nerves, experience or anything other than good, old-fashioned football plays.
Ok, so what does that have to do with running? We saw this at the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon, the runners who had qualified with a half marathon time and never even run a marathon before didn’t necessarily fare any worse than those with experience.
When the big day comes and you feel like the Nick Foles of running, remember: it’s about what YOU can do on that given day.
Someone else’s race day trick may work for them but not for you:
At a crucial moment, the Patriots pulled out their trick play only to have it backfire. Later in the game, the Eagles pulled their “Philly Special” trick out of their pocket and it worked, leading Foles to a touchdown and the Eagles to a 22-12 lead.
So maybe eating a hard boiled egg mid-race, or singing the macarena while shortening her stride helped your friend get through a rough patch at mile 20 of a marathon. That doesn’t mean it will necessarily work for you. You need your own special tricks to get you through crucial moments. Learn what those are, and always have them in your back pocket. You never know when they might help you through.
Success can still be found in losing:
Midway through the Super Bowl, I said that more than anything I was just glad it was a good game. Between the Patriots and Eagles combined, they broke 29 records. Tom Brady broke seven of those records all by himself, yet his team still lost the game.
It makes me think of the 2016 Olympics, when all three US women in the marathon cracked the top 10 even though none got on the podium. Molly Huddle placed ‘just’ 6th in the 2016 Olympic 10k, but broke the American Record in the process. Sometimes we win but don’t get the time we want, sometimes we get our PR but don’t get the win.
Not every training cycle will end the way you want it to, but the work you put in still matters:
There are 17 weeks in the NFL’s regular season, which is pretty close to the number of weeks in most marathon training plans. Seventeen weeks of hard work, sweat, tears, amazing days and days you would rather forget. Seventeen weeks of working towards one goal, one day, one moment.
Regardless of what happens at the Super Bowl or on your goal race day, the work that went into it still matters. That work still made you a stronger and better athlete, and builds upon past work and success, getting you closer to future breakthroughs.
It’s not over till it’s over:
All Bills fans know you don’t celebrate anything until the clock says 0, even if chances are slim to none that your team will win. You just never know what could happen in the 4th quarter or the final few miles or minutes of a race.
With the Super Bowl this year, I don’t think there was a given point where anyone truly know who was going to win. Even when the Eagles built their lead, we’ve seen Brady lead the comeback fierce and make it happen (most notably at last year’s Super Bowl).
That’s taught me to hold on towards the end, find a second wind, and dig deeper because it’s just not over until you cross that line. Leads can be lost and won over up until that last second, PR’s are arguably made in those final minutes more than any other time of a race. Even if you’re having a bad day, off your goal pace by a few seconds or minutes, the runners who can come back from that will find the most success. Starting smart is one thing, but being able to finish whether things are going good or bad is just as important of a skill.
The Super Bowl was a good mid-winter athletic inspiration, as we’re bundling up in the dark, hitting the treadmill for endless miles and trying to find our mojo that is probably still hiding under the blankets in our nice warm beds.
What’s inspiring you to get through the final weeks of the cold, dark winter training season?