At the conclusion of last week’s Q&A with Bernard Lagat and Kara Goucher, they were both asked for one piece of advice to give to any up-and-coming runners. Be diligent in training, set goals, but don’t think of yourself as a failure if you don’t completely reach your goals. Just because you didn’t get there doesn’t mean you didn’t improve as a runner. You did, you totally did. You just have to be patient and have faith. One day you’ll get there if you train hard, train smart and have patience.
I’m paraphrasing a bit because I don’t remember their exact words, but that was the gist of their message. As I was walking home that night, I thought about how ironic it was that in a sport that celebrates speed, competition, and beating your fellow man to the finish line, the most important lesson to be learned was how to slow down and be patient with yourself. A part of me (albeit a slight part) wondered if that were all a ploy to discourage any aspiring racers from training as hard as they do. Maybe it was all a big USATF marketing campaign to thwart off the competition!
Frankly though, I totally dig their message because I tell myself the same thing after every run that didn’t go as well as planned. So even if I don’t run as fast, as far, or as well as I thought I was capable of, the training itself was still valuable because it is all a process of getting “there”, no matter what or where “there” is. Even though most of my loyal fan base will probably not agree, I am much more lenient and forgiving of myself than I used to be. With knowledge gained through experience, I’ve learned not to let one DNF, DNS, or a particularly bad workout ruin my confidence in my own running. I trust my training and my body enough not to worry about what will happen to me at mile 20 of the Boston Marathon if I couldn’t finish a long run or two a few months before the race. As long as I train hard but smart, and within my own abilities, and not get injured, the sky’s the limit for what can happen in the race. I am certain of that.
As with all good things in life, everything comes to those who wait. Patience and diligence. I believe these are the essential characteristics of a successful miler and marathoner…as best exemplified by Bernard and Kara in the Millrose Games. By their dominant performances, I’m inclined to believe that one day in the way distant future, in a race no one cares about, I can be just as perfect too. Well, here’s to hoping anyway.