This weekend, I ran my fourth half marathon.
Back in May, I ran (mostly) the same course and did really well until the last two miles. I did well even though I was injured and hadn’t been able to train fully. I PR’d (obtained a personal record) in that race. I kept thinking, “Wow, if I can do this injured, without training, imagine how I’ll do if I take the summer and fall to really prepare and do it again. I could take 5 minutes off this time!”
So, I spent the last four months working toward this race. I had a goal finishing time of 1:42, but would’ve been happy with 1:45. I got a coach and I followed the plan to the letter. I hit every running workout. Got stronger with my strength training. I dialed in my nutrition and lost a few extra pounds. I took it easy the 10 days before the race, laying off the tough workouts, taking care not to drink alcohol, to drink lots (and lots) of water. I put my clothes out 2 days before. I even avoided wearing high heels so I wouldn’t stress out my poor broken little toe before the race.
Just like you before the LSAT, I did everything everyone said to do. I did it all right.
The morning of the race came, and I was excited. I’d hit most of the course six months prior and felt comfortable on it. I was happy as I lined up to start. I felt rested and ready.
Then the race started. At first things felt fine and like everything was going according to plan. Then, in mile 3, I went too fast. I knew it. I just couldn’t stop myself from rolling through the down hills. Then, just after mile 4, there was a really big uphill. And I felt the clock ticking. I was falling behind. And I was maxing out my heart rate. At the mile 7 marker, I knew my average pace was 10-20 seconds off where it would need to be in order for me to hit my time. And the temperature was creeping into the 80s. And there was no shade. I was stopping at every water break. Things were starting to feel really difficult.
Before I hit mile 8, the 1:50 pacer group passed me. It was demoralizing. I said “F-it” and took time to go to the porta potty, because if I wasn’t going to hit my goal then there was no reason to be physically uncomfortable. Then I got back out there and worked on finishing the race as fast as I could, even if I couldn’t hit the paces I was hoping. I turned the pace view off my watch, and just watched my heart rate to make sure I was working hard and not taking things too easy.
I had a lot of time to think over the last 5 miles. I thought about quitting running, of course. I thought about placing blame on my coach, or on how I’d attacked mile 3.Then, I thought about my best friend and how, if I hadn’t encouraged her to try again after not getting a promotion earlier this year, she wouldn’t have just gotten her even more amazing promotion this past month. I thought about my law school admission consulting clients and what I would tell them if something didn’t go exactly as they’d prepared for and planned, how I’d have a plan B and a plan C ready. How I’d assure them this was not the defining moment in their life. And all of that got me to the finish line.
My husband and best friend and my dog were waiting for me at the end. Yes, they’d worried that I’d gotten kidnapped (or, worse, hurt). But they were still happy to see me, still impressed with my accomplishment, and still wanted to celebrate with me. I had a few sips of my celebratory beer, we went out for breakfast burritos, I went home and took an ice bath. There may have been a tiny bit of tequila involved in my post-race recovery. Perhaps. But the main takeaway was that the people who matter to me really don’t care what my finishing time is, or how great a runner I am. They just care about me being happy.
I took time to think over the next day or so. I reached out to someone I trust – the person who really inspired and coached me to my current level of fitness – and asked his advice. Do I tackle another half marathon, or do I lick my wounds, re-group, and wait until my next planned half marathon in March? We came up with a plan. The plan was based simply on him believing in me. And that was all I needed to know; if he believes in me, then this is absolutely possible and worth continuing to fight for.
And now I’m ready to move forward. I know this race doesn’t define me just like your LSAT score doesn’t define you. It’s what we do with setbacks that matter, how we react to them. People who never have setbacks are going to be incredibly frustrated as practicing lawyers (trust me!). These are the moments that give us strength and motivation to come back better than we started.
Some readers over the years have liked my occasional cheesy motivational post. If that’s not you, I’m sorry. But you’re probably not still reading, so never mind. If this helps, let me know. You’d probably also like my instagram.
P.S. The picture looks better than I felt.