Tuesday, January 16, 2018

2018 Houston Marathon Reflections

I completed my third marathon this past Sunday, finishing the 2018 Houston Marathon in 4:43. Even running with a friend, I still had a lot of time to let my mind wander as the miles went by (especially the later ones!). I figured I should write down those thoughts - how I felt about the race, what I appreciated about it, what I learned from the experience - with the hope that it helps others out there as well as prepares me for my next race.

The starting line was near the George R. Brown (GRB) convention center. My buddy Joe and I reached the pre-race area at about 6:30 AM. The race started at 7:00 AM. I had been originally assigned to Corral A, but after having to retrieve a forgotten pair of gloves and a not-so-quick pit stop, we fell back to Corral D. The later corral did not get to the starting line until about 7:30 AM. Luckily, despite temperatures in the thirties, I felt pretty comfortable in my long-sleeve technical shirt and shorts. After slowly walking up to the starting line, we got off to a smooth start.

For the first 11 miles or so, we ran within our planned range of 8:45 to 9:00 minutes per mile. Just before mile 11, my parents surprised us by cheering us on from the sidelines, as we turned off University Blvd to head towards Westpark / Galleria area. Joe started to have knee trouble and I could feel my calves start to slowly ache, but at the halfway mark, I was still within my expectations at 1:58.

That's when the wheels started to come off. First my calves went, followed by my quads. I was soon reduced to a run-walk combo, running a few minutes until the cramps returned, then walking until I felt them fully subside. Fortunately, mentally I was good and felt that I had good energy levels. Just didn't have the legs underneath me. I settled into a 14:00/mile pace for the last 10 miles or so until happily crossing the finish line right outside GRB.

What did I learn / relearn from this race?

  • You perform how you practiceKnowing that the course was flat with favorable temperatures, I was hoping to improve on my PR of 4:14 with hopefully a sub 4:00 time. However, skimping on training because of winter weather was my undoing, and it showed in the latter miles.
  • Be honest with yourself about preparation
    I had a training calendar set out, and while I roughly kept to it, there were still too many runs skipped or cut short if I wanted to meet my goal.
  • Run the race you have, not the one you want
    As I was realizing mid-race that I would not be able to keep up, remembering this helped me be at peace with falling off and letting go of my original expected finish time. Like life, races are full of unexpected factors and you must adapt to them. How you feel about the race will map more closely to your expectations rather than your actual performance.
  • Run each step mindfully
    What I mean by this is, early in the race, running mindfully meant keeping a consistent pace even when it felt easy to go faster. Later in the race, it meant listening to my body and not pushing it into a cramping state or worse, injury.
  • Be grateful
    Even as the race got away from me, being grateful helped remind me to stay focused on what was working & the road ahead, rather than what went wrong & what might have been.
Speaking of being grateful, here is what I am thankful for about this race:
  • Finishing safe & sound
  • Having my family there to support me and enjoy the event
  • Being able to run with my friends and mutually support each other during the race
  • The support of friends who did training runs with me & sent messages of support
  • Near ideal weather conditions, with cool temps and clear skies
  • Well-organized event with sufficient supplies at each station
  • Great crowd and positive atmosphere
Despite the mild disappointment of not meeting my original expectation, I am pretty happy with the run and motivated to keep it up and find races in the future that I can better prepare for. Here's to the next one!


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