Saturday, July 3, 2010

Run to Win...

If you were at the expo for the Seattle Marathon you may have noticed Meb (the winner of the NYC marathon) was at the SONY booth signing autographs. You also likely saw him sign the same thing on most people's bib/t-shirts/etc. .... "Run to Win."

I've been thinking about writing something on this for a while, and Meb's words pushed me up onto my soap box. You may take note that he did not write "run to finish" or "enjoy the race" or "meet a mediocre goal." He wrote "run to win"-- now I don't take this to mean he hopes we all actually try to win the Seattle Marathon. But, to me this means win your own race. Do you have a prior time you've hit and you want to PR? Have you been injured and hope to push yourself to a time that you know will be challenging? Have you never finished a marathon before and hope to cross the line having run the best you can?

Quantity v. Quality?
I've noticed a little trend going on with some of us "mega marathoners" or "multi-marathoners" -- w/e you call us crazies that insist on doing 10... 20... 30 + marathons in a year. The ones that don't understand the words "recovery time." I've noticed that QUANTITY of races has become so fixated on, we seem to be losing the QUALITY of our races-- settling for finishes instead of setting goals, giving up on training and taking an overall attitude that we don't need to improve a time or push ourselves because we've done so many.

Watching the early starters doing a loop before I started a marathon I was a little upset to see that MOST of them had 50-Stater shirts on. Now if that is as hard as they can go that day then I applaud them for getting out there... but as I pass them on the course some (NOT all) are usually walking, chatting, taking pictures and rarely out of breath and not seeming to be pushing themselves very much at all.

I've also noticed that when talking to people about being in the 50-stater club and they tend to automatically assume that I run slow. When I reply "no" that I've continued to PR through this marathon-madness and that I actually train between races they often give me a very surprised face.

Maybe doing X number of races IS the way they push themselves, but there has to be something said about the need for a high number of races at the expense of improving your abilities as a runner- making yourself a better athlete- because, after all, isn't a marathon an athletic event?! And isn't part of being an athlete pushing yourself to improve from the last race/game/competition/etc.

I've played sports and have been quite competitive my entire life. To me, being an athlete means pushing yourself in each and every race/game/match/etc as hard as you can THAT day. It means striving to improve your personal best and testing your body, pushing it past the limits you thought you once had. Runners like Dean Karnazes show us that the human body and the human spirit is limitless! This is why I believe no runner should settle to just finish a bunch of marathons in 1 year. I believe in speed work and hill work, I believe in testing out new shoes and working on new forms that can improve your running. I believe weight training and cross training are essential-- anything that can be done to improve a marathoner as a runner.

When I started picking up my quantity of races I expected to slow down, but I did everything I could so that if I did, I would still be able to walk away from a race saying "I did the best I could today."

I'm not saying everybody has to try to PR in every race (I certainly haven't!) or that they have to go for BQ (ha! I wish) times or even run the same pace they were able to 20 years ago at their prime-- all I'm urging for is that each runner pushes him or herself so that when they walk away from a marathon they can say they ran as hard as they could that day. Ask yourself...

-Some races you get to the starting line and the weight of the last 10 marathons in 3-4 months is falling heavy on your legs! Are you settling on finishing the race? Or are you thinking about your capability to run today, taking 3-4 minutes off that time and going for it?
-Are you (once again) doing a double marathon and settling on finishing or are you going to try for an improved (albeit slower than normal marathon time) combined time?
-Have you already completed 20 marathons in a year and choosing to do 20 again? Or are you going to pick out 3-4  of those 20 races and putting timed goals on them?...

I have one more example (below) in the mean time I'm going to get off my soap box in hopes that there are no rotten tomatoes thrown...

Steph's "Run to Win Athlete of the Week!"
This is another example I found... everybody meet Julie! "Hi Julie!!!" I've decided to pick out a runner once a week that are a great example we can all learn from. They inspire me and I hope they can inspire you too! These runners show a commitment to challenging themselves, pushing past the mediocre goals and never settling on less than their best.

As of this past weekend Julie is now a marathoner! "Congrats Julie" (very good kids, you're so polite) If you go to her blog, she has broken down her marathon experience into several sections, but the one I found most inspiring is yesterday's post about what she learned. Although Julie did have a knock-out time in under 4:00 for her first ever marathon!... I was equally impressed by the attitude she took during the race. Here is a blurb of what Julie had to say...

"Set a goal, train, and go for it. Even if you don't meet it you'll know that you pushed as hard as you could and there is no greater achievement than that." Followed up by...

"I asked myself, 'Am I plowing over pain or standing on the other side of the line? Can I push harder?' Usually, the answer was, 'YES. I can push harder.' At the very end between 23 and 25 there were moments when I thought I literally felt my body push over that line of pain"..."That is what I want all my races to be about whether a 5k or marathon. Did I push as hard as I possibly could? If I did, then that is success whether I meet the time goal or not."

So Julie has pretty much summed up my entire speech above in a few sentences. If you get a chance go and congratulate her on an amazing first marathon and an inspirational attitude!


Well my plane to Portland will be landing soon. I hope all you Saturday racers had a wonderful races and good luck to all you Sunday racers! Portland's Foot Traffic Marathon tomorrow! See you there.

Happy Running!


  1. I have been following your blog for a bit and don't follow many 50 state people, but I am more impressed with you actually running marathons well than just trying to cram them in quickly (and of course doubly impressed that you can pull off both).

    I am not fast and don't always think I do as well as I could, but when I see people tweeting/texting/facebooking, stopping for tons of photos, etc during marathons, it's like man...can we live in the moment for a second? aren't you just as much of badass if you don't tell thousands of your closest friends what you are up to in real time?

  2. wow. thank you stephanie! I'm so, so honored. You are such an inspiration to me. I was bragging to my husband about your endeavors this week and he said, "Well she probably doesn't run sub-4 marathons each race." I said, well actually she just ran a 3:34 in Seattle!!! :) You are the prime example of how I want to run and in Meb's words, "RUN to win" thank you so much for showing me, in my newbie marathon world that it is possible and we should push as hard as we can each and every time. Makes me teary thinking about it. You are what we all aspire to be as runners. Good luck in Portland. Of course, you will rock it.

  3. I had a similar discussion with my 8yo after her school cross-country ... I know she doesn't try as hard as she could (she is a cruiser) and she was disappointed at coming 11th when cut-off for inter-school was 10th. I had the well, if you can truly say to yourself that you ran as hard as you could the whole way then you should be happy you got close, however if you know in your heart that you didn't, or there was some part where you know you could have tried harder, well then yes, you should be disappointed. Then left her to think about it - hopefully she learnt a good lesson ;)
    When I'd been running for just six months and won a prize to run the London Marathon, I decided early on that I wanted to break 4:30 ... not extremely fast, but to me that was the time I figured was a "real runners" time, I trained to do it, ran the marathon (Rotorua, not London ... thanks Iceland volcano)to do it ... and DID do it :) Totally agree with your thoughts ... and congratulations with your endeavours!!

  4. You mentioned people walking, doesn't MB do the walk/run during her marathons?

  5. Thank you. Good post, I am looking for some extra motivation and agree with what your saying. Might be nice to say you did a bunch of marathons but does lose something if you didnt give your best that day. I really enjoy your blog and reading about all the different marathon keep it up.

  6. your youth is showing. :)

    I find it hard to believe that you know that those *other* people are not giving it their best from a quick glance as you ran past them.

  7. While I'm not seeking the 50-states, and I'm not a marathon maniac, I do think you have a point. I think in many ways we've lost the true spirit of the marathon. It started, not just as a feat of endurance, but also of speed, as I'm almost certain that Pheidippides would have been running his a** off to deliver the message. In the spirit of the marathon, I want to run every marathon (or any race) to the best of my abilities. I don't want to end up dead at the end (or in the medical tent), but I do want to walk/crawl/shuffle away from the finish line knowing that I ran the best race I possibly could.

    (I'm aware that there is some debate about Pheidippides, and how far he actually ran, and when he died. But the commonly held belief is that he ran 25-26 miles and dropped dead upon delivery. That's the belief that our modern marathon is based on).