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5K Defeat

July 21, 2010

This past Saturday, I ran another 5K. The Capital District YMCA Schenectady/Greater Glenville 5K.

This was my seventh race in less than nine months, my sixth 5K.

The start/finish line was a 7 minute walk from the front door of my apartment.

I had decided on Friday that I was going to try to PR. I placed a blue post-it that reads “33:48” in permanent marker near my computer at work. I told myself that 33:48 was doable. I told myself that I have what it takes to run faster than ever. I told myself that this race was going to be THE RACE.

Saturday morning, I woke up at 5:45 to continue preparations for the CDNY Eat Drink Blog brunch meet up and get ready for the race. At 6:55 I stopped setting up and headed to the ATM to get cash for my entry fee. Then I walked to the park, approached the registration table, and walked away with a race bib displaying the number 200 in my hands. “200 sounds like a nice even number for a PR day,” I thought. I walked home and continued to prepare for brunch until 8:20 when I left my apartment for the park once again.

I had already decided that I was going to PR. I decided that it didn’t matter that I had been running slower than I was last year, trying to build my endurance. I decided it didn’t matter how much sleep I got the night before. I decided it didn’t matter that it was July and my PR was from October. I decided it didn’t matter that I walked over to the start line 3 minutes before they said “On Your Marks…”

I positioned myself near the back of the pack, and on the word go, slowly moved forward, waiting for the speed of the crowd to move from walking to jogging, and hitting start on my stop watch when I crossed paths with the clock at the start line.

The course was out and back. My mind was here and there. “PR. PR. PR.” I chanted, with my water bottle in one hand and my iPod in the other. I listened to a play list that I had made near 1:00 AM that morning, and my thoughts progressed.

I can do this! Here we go!

I feel strong and mighty!

Why on earth am I even trying to do this?

One mile already? At 10:28? That’s faster pace than I was expecting – maybe I can do this!

Oh. My. Word. It is too hot for this crap.

Oh, yes. I’ve reached that point. That point where my legs are no longer sore and the bottom half of my body just becomes numb. I love this point.


Must stop running. Must walk.

Must stop walking. Must run.

One mile left. Here goes nothing. If I run this mile in less than 11 minutes, I will be able to do it. I will be able to PR.

I ran for about 1 minute, and then the ambition stopped.

I couldn’t run more than 30 seconds at a time without the urge to walk shouting at me. I tried to only walk for 10-15 seconds at a time, and run at least a minute at time, but I just couldn’t. I just wouldn’t. I just didn’t. I was done mentally, physically, and emotionally – I wanted to quit. I told myself the DQ wouldn’t bother me. I wanted to take a right at the park, when there was still about half a mile left, and just go home and get ready for my day.

I wanted to close my eyes, open them again and be back at my house, just waking up, so I could try again. I wanted a do-over. I wanted to try harder from the beginning. I wanted to feel differently about this race than I did right in that moment.

The last quarter mile of the course had us running next to the finish line, to a turnaround point , then turning to run back through the finish. When I ran by the finish, with the banner to my left instead of above me, I suddenly became angry. I slowed to a pouring jog, and moved slowly to the 3 mile marker, where I took off, springing as fast as I could through the finish. I was frustrated and discouraged. I came in with an official clock time of 34:52. My fastest race of 2010 thus far. My fastest run, race or training, of the summer months. But I did not PR. I did not PR. I did not PR.

I headed towards my house immediately after the race.

I let myself be angry. I let myself start crying. I let myself look ridiculous walking through the middle of the park as I gasped for air, already out of breath from sprinting through the finish, and now sobbing my way home.

I let myself question – could I have gone harder? What could I have done differently? When am I going to learn to resist the urge to walk? Why is setting a PR so important to me, anyway? Who is going to judge me for my lack of setting a PR? Why was I so frustrated?

Then I reached my block and it stopped. It was over.

The crying. The questioning. The doubting.

The anger. The disappointment. The judgment.

The defeat was over. Until next time.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2010 11:46 am

    Good for you for “letting it go” when you reached your block!

    I used to dwell on bad races (or bad training runs) for days or weeks at a time.

    2 weeks ago was actually the first time I ever said “well, I had a bad race – that’s all there is to it”. I allowed myself to be pissed off and frustrated for the 40 min drive home and that was it.

    Now I just remember it as a bad race, but I don’t beat myself up over it….and I remember that my “best” race might be the next one I run!

  2. July 21, 2010 11:53 am

    Just the fact that you can even run a 5K is amazing. YOU are amazing! I know as runners (who run in races) we are constantly trying to push ourselves and PR every race…I do it myself too. Most of the time I know its not possible! It is hard not to feel defeated if you didn’t finish at the time you wanted to…but its okay. I applaud you for getting out there and doing it at all! the weather was awful for running that day anyway…and you did accomplish something! 😀

  3. July 21, 2010 12:39 pm

    Um, girlfriend, you still ran the race! And don’t diminish your accomplishments. It was your fastest race in 2010 AND you did it on a day where you had a ton going on AND you did it after a night of little sleep AND you did it during the hot as hades summer months AND you did it on a boring out and back ANDDDDD you rock. End of story. 🙂 I’m proud of you, whether you felt defeated or not.

    Love you. 🙂

  4. Notes from the Fatty File permalink
    July 21, 2010 12:42 pm

    Hi there, I just recently found your blog and I love this post because I can totally relate. I also ran a 5k this past Saturday and it sucked donkey balls. I was just completely… off. I really think the weather played a role. For what it’s worth, I think your time was great (especially compared to mine!) and you deserve kudos for finishing the race and finishing strong, even if it hurt.

  5. July 21, 2010 1:00 pm

    Hi Heather – You are justified in feeling however you feel because it was your race and your mindset but I have to say that you are a winner in my book! You ran the race. And you finished the race. And then you had an awesome day hosting a blogger brunch! I’ve NEVER had the guts to sign up for a race until very recently. I’m proud of you. I think you rock.

  6. July 21, 2010 1:41 pm

    You rock for doing a 5K at all. I couldn’t have done it in anywhere near that time! I totally get how you got frustrated and upset and angry, but you really did PR in a way. PR for summer, PR for the year. So who cares about an overall record?

  7. Kati permalink
    July 21, 2010 2:16 pm

    I was never, will never be a runner. I am a swimmer. But, I understand this frustration. My last swim meet ever, my senior year of high school, was my last chance to achieve my goal time for my event (100 breast). I didn’t get my time by .42 second. .42. Less than a second. But the clock didn’t read my goal time, I failed. And I have never had another chance (nor will I ever be in that kind of shape to have that chance) again. I was actually angry at myself for a really long time!

    Now, I’m kinda glad I never achieved my goal time. Every time I think of it, it’s another reminder that every second, literally, every second of life is important. : )

  8. July 21, 2010 2:26 pm

    I’m still working on running a whole 5k without walking and my personal best at a finish is about 38 min and that’s at the gym so I’m hoping to get to where you are.

    I’m glad you let it go, I think sometimes we have to cut ourselves some slack.

  9. July 21, 2010 2:26 pm

    I totally understand how you feel, but look at it this way: you finished the race against every urge and desire to quit. It may be disappointment, but it’s not defeat.

  10. Darlene Cardillo permalink
    July 21, 2010 7:47 pm

    Next time, start at the front of the pack – it really improves your time. The clock starts when the lst runner starts so you’re at a disadvantage starting in the back. Also try to run with someone faster or keep an eye on someone ahead & try to keep up. It’ll make you run faster. There’s always another race. After a bad one, comes a good one. I know exactly how you feel. I always set high expectations & then I’m disappointed. It’s hard not to. You’re a winner. You could have stayed in bed & you didn’t. See you at another 5k.

  11. July 21, 2010 11:26 pm

    Being able to let it go is great. I’ve fumed over races for awhile and it is no fun. Besides you had a great afternoon ahead of you 🙂

  12. July 22, 2010 10:00 am

    You should be so proud of yourself for running the race to begin with. It’s ok that you didn’t PR. There will be other races. You are so awesome for running at all!

  13. July 22, 2010 10:32 am

    Hey girl,

    We are oftentimes our own worst critic. I’ve gone into races with a certain time frame in mind or wanting to PR and feeling disappointed when I didn’t do what I set out to. Then I say to myself “self, who exactly are you racing against? You got out there and did the damn thing, be proud.” And then I am. You got yourself out there and did it. That is a victory in and of itself. No defeat for you, no siree. Way to be.

  14. July 23, 2010 12:08 am

    I think I could’ve written this post. I’ve felt this way so often. Especially on training runs. But I have to keep reminding myself that this is such a mental sport as well.

    This is my first time to your blog, and I look forward to reading more!

  15. July 23, 2010 8:09 am

    It was really interesting to read your thought process. I’m sorry it ended up being rough and not the PR you hoped for. But I still think it’s amazing and wonderful that you pushed yourself and learned something in the process. Don’t forget the triumph in it. Good job!

  16. July 23, 2010 10:57 am

    No doubt you will get that PR when the time is right. Don’t give up on yourself and you will meet your goal!

  17. July 24, 2010 8:57 pm

    Good for you for finishing the race, and not dwelling on your anger and disappointment. It’s the middle of the summer, running outside is not easy in the heat! Don’t give up 🙂

  18. August 9, 2010 8:55 am

    i know this is an older post, but i just read it…and you just described exactly what happens in my head before, during, and after a “failed” 5K pr attempt. it is nice to know i’m not the only one…


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