I am known for starting races a bit too fast. I’m sure any guide to running or an experienced runner would advise you not to. It’s not a sensible thing to do. I get it. But hear me out.
First of all, ask yourself why do you actually run? If you run just to be fit, read no more. If you run for the adventure, for the hope of beating the former self and perhaps the person next to you, for the thrill of the unknown, and for the tiny possibility of achieving something you have not even dreamt of, then you might understand me.
Most of us will hardly become Olympic athletes (but who am I to limit your dreams) so achieving something that seems beyond our reach is our equivalent to setting a world record or snatching an Olympic medal – whether it is running further than ever before, or faster than you thought you could, or finishing first at your local parkrun (yes, I know it’s not a race).
So how does one achieve something seemingly unachievable? (I mean something unachievable to that individual, while perhaps totally normal for someone else.) Are boundaries pushed by following a plan to a tee? Are new horizons discovered by being careful? Are limits broken by being cautious and reserved? Never!
Let me tell you about my recent marathon and half marathon that took place only six days apart – that is a “mistake” no1. No one would advise you to race a half marathon six days after you raced a marathon. It’s madness. But what if you deep down know you are on form despite Mr Garmin telling you you should be resting? I ran a sub 3:30 marathon which was faster than I thought I could. And so I entered a half marathon the next weekend because I felt there is more in me. My first mile was 20 seconds faster than my half marathon PB pace. My head was saying “too fast”. So I slowed down a bit, and then the 2nd female and her “pack” overtook me. In that moment, I stopped looking at my watch and started following her like a donkey follows carrot. I decided I will be third female and no one will take that from me. And so I ran like mad, without looking back once, with my watch beeping splits some of which were stupidly fast. With every step, I felt like I am making a history – maybe not a general running history, but my own – and skipping over what I thought were my limits. I finished with a sprint just in case anyone felt like threating my position (although, as I later realised, the next female was good 3 minutes behind me). I couldn’t believe my eyes when I checked my watch and it was telling me I run 1:34:39 half marathon. The time I was aiming for was about 4 minutes slower.
And that’s why I start my races a bit too fast – because there is always a tiny possibility that I might just manage to maintain that pace and achieve something I did not dare to dreamt of. I smashed 3:28 marathon and 1:34 half because I did not pace myself and because I had the courage to epically fail. To be honest, in my case, failure is not that uncommon, but before each race I tell myself – whether I fail or succeed, either way it’ll be epic! Whether I crash or triumph, I always leave everything out there on the course.
So do carry on sensibly following your watch if that’s your style. But me, I will run with my heart, with no regrets, dizzy from the excitement that I can occasionally achieve something spectacular, or DNF trying. Either way it’ll be epic!