I Didn’t Set a Personal Best… And I’m Learning That’s Okay

I’m still getting the hang of this racing thing. My biggest challenge so far is realizing that not every race is going to come with a personal record… and being okay with that.

It’s no secret I’m competitive, more with myself than others. I am Type-A, constantly striving to improve and exceed expectations. This is why running is a great sport for me.

It’s also why running isn’t a great sport for me… sometimes.

When it comes to races, a lot of external factors can have an impact on performance. Even if you’ve trained perfectly, you still might not run your fastest time or win the race (heh, winning a race…). With my personality type, this is hard to grasp.

On Sunday, I ran my third half marathon and fifth race in less than 90 days. Going into the Iron Girl Clearwater Half Marathon, I knew I shouldn’t go for a PR. The course is infamous for being challenging. The forecast predicted heavy rain and strong wind along with higher-than-I’m-used-to temperatures and humidity.

image credit: Meals and Miles

You probably figured out that I did not set a new personal best in Sunday’s Iron Girl. In fact, I finished 3-and-a-half minutes off my PR and ran my slowest half marathon.

A part of me is honestly (and surprisingly) fine with this! My family came to cheer for me and it made me so happy every time I saw them along the course. I had fun running the gorgeous route with stunning views of the gulf, and the steep causeway bridges didn’t kill me. I saw runners faster than me stop to walk the bridges, but I kept powering up them. The storm held off until I crossed the finish line (literally, the second I stopped my watch it started to pour). At the end, I received a sparkly, beach-themed medal that makes an awesome addition to my collection. Overall, I finished in the Top 5 for my age group and 32nd out of 1500 finishers.

All said, I should be thrilled with Sunday’s performance.

But, it’s hard not to get down when I feel like I trained well for this race and still didn’t run my best time. As I lined up at the start, I felt strong. I put in more miles and got in some quality long runs over 15 miles. I focused on hill repeats to prepare for the mountain bridges.  I didn’t go out too fast, though I paced myself right, and never hit a wall.

Yet, that finish time has me questioning my training and, worse, my abilities.

Did I push myself to my limit on Sunday? What if I didn’t try hard enough? The race certainly didn’t feel easy, but there were times when I felt like I might be holding back in an attempt to save energy for the bridges. My boyfriend said I was “smiley-er” than in the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler or Disney Princess Half, that I looked “too happy to be running hard.”

So, of course, the past few days have been filled with some seriously ridiculous self-pity and self-doubt:

Did I get too overzealous with my spring racing schedule? Did I not try enough in the race? Did I count myself out because of the weather and difficult course before I even gave myself a chance? Did I push myself too hard or not hard enough in certain workouts? Did I peak too early? Did I give myself too few recovery days? Were the other races just flukes? OMG, am I never going to be fast(ish)?

And, now, it’s time to stop fretting over the race and accept it’s okay NOT to PR, that you can run a great race and still not hit your fastest time. Reading Lisa’s post, 7 Ways to Rid Yourself of Negative Thoughts, helped me get back on track, mentally.

The bottom line is I love running and enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with racing. Even though I didn’t break any records on Sunday, I still had fun. Until that feeling goes away, I’m going to keep filling up my bank statement with registration fees.

When it comes to racing, there are a lot of unknowns and this is what keeps the sport fun and challenging. As the old saying goes, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.”


18 thoughts on “I Didn’t Set a Personal Best… And I’m Learning That’s Okay

  1. I know what you mean about being competitive with yourself; I’m the same way. Not every race will be a PR, they just won’t. And it sounds like this was a tough race . (That bridge looks horrendous!) I love the quote that you ended with. So true!*

    • I’m so glad I’m not alone! It’s tough but staying strong mentally is so important when it comes to running, racing, and training.

  2. I’m new to running, but have already completed a 5k and a 10k. As a competitive person like yourself, I find that every time I run I’m looking for a personal best, which explains my lack of effective pacing. Your post is a good reminder that I have a lot to learn from other’s experience. Thank you!

    • That’s so great that you’ve already completed a couple races! It looks like we’re in the same spot – with a lot of room for improvement still, which is exciting!

  3. I love this post. I ran a marathon on Sunday and didn’t PR, I scrutinised every mile of my Garmin and did the whole “I could have run faster if….” scenarios. I was disappointed for a bit. Then decided life was too short to be upset about not PR-ing. If we PR-ed every race then it’s ‘special-ness’ would be lost. I’m still filling my credit card with race registrations too!

    • I love that – “life is too short to be upset about not PR-ing.” I took a look at my race bucket list earlier this week, which made me remember how many races I want to run for reasons other than setting a PR – because the course is supposed to be beautiful, because of the entertainment, because the course is known to be challenging, because the race is in a location I want to visit, because the race is historical. When I look at it that way, I remember all the reasons I run and that makes it easier to deal with not setting a new PR.

  4. I can completely relate! I’ve definitely had to learn to accept that not every race will be a PR. I’m Type A as well, so I want to keep improving so badly and falling short of my goals can be disappointing. But then again, it’s also a huge motivator. It makes me want it that much more. So you didn’t PR this time but you’re still healthy and can try again soon. You’ve got one more experience to add to your arsenal and will learn to pick a race that will be optimal for you. Personally, I cannot race in hot weather and know now that it’s not in my best interest to have my sights set on breaking a record on that kind of course.

    • The funny thing is that I had already resolved I wouldn’t set a PR going into the race. But, for some reason, I guess a tiny part of me wanted to keep on improving my time even though I set back-to-back PRs less than a month ago. It’s all a bit silly.

      I am glad so many people can relate, though. I think you have to be a little Type-A to be a long distance runner.

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  6. I enjoyed reading this post. I’ve been running for year, but just started running races a little over a year ago. I started big, a marathon. Although I have personal goals in each race, I usually forget about them and enjoy the experience of the race itself. I look forward to reading more posts from you. Great job!

    • I’m glad you’re able to enjoy the race experience! I need to be more cognizant of doing that. Sometimes, I am so focused on running my fastest that I barely remember parts of the race or course. Not good!

  7. This one is always tricky for me… we always want to do BETTER than we did the last time, but there are so many factors that come into play at each race. Looks like you are coming to grips with not having to PR every race, that’s good.

    The second half is to learn from the expereince. If you feel like you had more energy in the tank, try to set up check points for next time. I always run the first half of anything at a comfortable pace. After that, run the next quarter based on how you feel while keeping in mind you have the last quarter. I use the 3 check-in points mentally during any race and re-evaluate as I go along.

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