3 Things Learned from a Great Race


Five years ago I ran a half marathon with some fellow bloggers in Florida. At the time it was a long awaited PR — it didn’t even feel hard. It also kicked off a year of PRs in halfs.

It was also the start of a lot of turmoil in my life — the ongoing saga of my parents’ decline. At the time they were still living in my childhood home, but it became very clear right around that time that they couldn’t stay there after my mom had some surgery.

It was also not long after we had adopted Bandit, and we were embroiled in the mess that turned out to be. When we adopted him, we had Lola and Gizo, and they all had to be kept separate for months. We couldn’t walk Lola & Bandit together. He was a senior rescue and he had issues — he’s come a long way! — but at the time it was just another stress piled on top of the ongoing stress with my parents, not to mention the many years I’d just spent taking care of sick furkids.

Yet the race, which was in general was an afterthought for me, went well, and I learned a few things.

I learned my sweet spot
Everyone has a sweet spot when it comes to training. A certain weekly mileage they need to hit to be well prepared for a race, or maybe a certain length run — or a few of a certain length run.

Your body needs to be prepared both physically and mentally. I learned that I could definitely do well on lower weekly mileage — as long as I’d been consistently running. Running consistently, training or no, is like money in the bank. It’s the golden ticket to staying strong and (hopefully) uninjured (although many factors go into injury).

I relearned how important Nuun was to keep me running smoothly
If you care to read the recap here (warning: it’s long!) you’ll learn that I had really bad cramping starting at mile 10 and getting steadily worse until the end of the race.

When I started running, I used Nuun. At some point I got away from that — mainly because I don’t like to drink anything sweet on long runs. After this race I went back to Nuun. I won’t say I never cramp, but it’s pretty rare these days. #teamnuun for life!

Those saltstick chews I lost during the race? Yes, those have also become a staple because I’m a salty runner!

You may recognize several of these runners. The rest no longer blog.

I learned that it’s not so bad to be one of the slowest runners in a group
Because then you have a built in cheering squad, since the speedy runners have already finished and can cheer you in and take photos of you crossing that finish line.

Final Thoughts
I had been running halfs for about five years at this point. I trained consistently. I did all the things you’re supposed to do. I remained stuck at pretty much the same finish time. Deep down I knew I had a faster finish time in me. I just knew it.

I was right, too. In fact, I have had a lot more PRs since that breakthrough race. Not all the halfs have been PRs, of course, but somehow that one race cascaded into a lot of improvement.

Only it wasn’t really that one race, right? It was all the work I’d put in before that race, and continued to put in after it.

You may also like:

  1. PRs Don’t Just Happen
  2. C is the Most Important Letter
  3. 5 Ways to Take Off Pressure
  4. Can You be Content with Failure?

Have you ever had a breakthrough race?
What did you learn from it?


Linking up with Zenaida Arroyo and Kim @ Kookyrunner

This week I am also joining up with the new Runners’ Roundup linkup.


27 thoughts on “3 Things Learned from a Great Race

  1. I like how you emphasize consistency – it is key for me too. As you said, there’s a lot of work involved in a PR – months and even years of work.
    And when you finally hit that PR, it doesn’t even feel hard! My breakthrough race was a marathon where I finally realized that I need to do long runs to prepare well. Before that, I didn’t even run 13 miles to prepare for a full marathon!

    I love that photo with all the bloggers – but I only recognize you, Darlene, Marcia and Wendy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are such a strong runner Catrina! I’d love to have a little of your endurance.

      The next time you see Wendy’s waterskiing photos, Holly (the tall blonde) is her partner in crime for that when she’s not solo. So you’ve probably seen Holly!

      The other three stopped blogging a long time ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I do agree that you don’t need a lot of weekly miles as long as you run consistently.

    And my favorite halfs are the ones with a lot of support. My friends.

    Although my PR was a solo one. The Panama City race was one of my faster times since it was an easy course.

    Unfortunately no matter what you do, age catches up with all of us. Our best races become the ones you have the most fun at.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I learned, after numerous on-going injuries, that my body thrives on conservative mileage. Maybe that’s a gift? It often feels like a curse because I’d love to rack up 100+ miles/month, but it would NOT be worth the bragging rights LOL You’re absolutely right, each runner needs to find their own sweet spot and leave the comparisons behind 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting post. Consistency is important to achieve our goals. In the past I had scheduled programs for each kind of race but now, for me, the only important thing is to maintain a “decent” single and monthly mileage.
    My breakthrough race was the first marathon in 1990 where I understood the importance of the long distance runs. Before that race my higher mileage was 20 km.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love this last line – “Only it wasn’t really that one race, right? It was all the work I’d put in before that race, and continued to put in after it.” Sometimes you train and train and train and don’t get that reward, and then one day something clicks… but it’s really thanks to all the past training, the wins and losses.

    That sweet spot is so important – I use to tell myself running 5X a week was what I needed to do. But it would just leave me tired and frustrated. I soon found that 4x/ week was my sweet spot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like 4 x week, too, but I’ve learned to settle for 3 x week right now most of the time. I trained for that FL half with mostly 3 x week, too!

      Other runners love running daily. We’re all different!


  6. It really is about all the work you put in leading up to race day! But I think things needs to go well on race day too. You can have a perfect training cycle and then there may be things out of your control on race day. Its great that you were able to have a breakthrough race and then continue to make improvements!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it depends. I have had horrible race conditions that made for horrible races.

      Then I’ve had some pretty bad race conditions and managed to pull out a PR — years later I’m still in shock about my NOLA PR where the southern girls were falling apart, LOL!

      You just never know, really.

      Relatively sure that my paces have probably suffered since I haven’t trained hard (or really at all) for the last couple of years. Hopefully someday I’ll get back to it, or not. Again, you never know!


  7. That race was the one that left me scratching my head–I couldn’t get into a groove. Little did I know that one week later, I’d get my diagnosis of RA. I’m glad you PR’d that day. Funny how we all have such different experiences at the same race!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. For me it’s been more conplicated. While I agree consistency is huge, the race course, elevation, weather, stomach/GI issues, and more have all been a factor. It’s like the old saying about how everything just fell into place on race day. Some of it is just out of our hands.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A lot is definitely out of our hands — that day we were blessed with great weather.

      OTOH, my last PR — downhill race started at about 6000 ft, very hot, AND GI issues (which I never get!).

      I think I had the downhill to thank for that. I love downhill races!


  9. Consistency really is the golden ticket. I love the picture from this race! It must have been so much fun to race with all your blogging friends and set a PR! So that was five years ago? Do you think you’ll do more halfs?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wasn’t the only one that PR’d in that race, either. A couple of the bloggers were coached by Marcia. 🙂

      Hopefully I’ll run halfs some day again in the future, but for a variety of reasons, I don’t think it’s happening anytime soon.


  10. Totally agree with you about finding the sweet spot with training. I was tending to over train and not include enough strength work but after I made a few quick fixes, my races went better for the most part.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great tips, Judy! Learning AND LISTENING TO your sweet spot is so important. I wish I’d known then what I know now and I wouldn’t have run “all the miles” back in my day. Running was so social for my husband and me that we ran 16-20 miles every Saturday morning with our friends year round. Even though I might not have realized the ill-effects then, I firmly believe I’m paying for them now.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s