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Expect the unexpected on race day

Posted by Ty Velde  April 3, 2012 10:51 PM

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A marathon is a journey. While itís ultimately about race day and the 26.2 miles we all will look to cover, in reality itís much more than that.

It simply starts with the decision to run.

Then there is the registration process, which to me is really about making a commitmentÖa commitment to run and get to the starting line.

Then there is training. For many of us this is where the true challenge of running a marathon lies, as it requires commitment that extends far beyond single day.

Finally there is race day; the point where you ideally realize the fruits of your labors and go for it all.

For some the goal is a world record. For others itís about breaking three hours. Some aspire for a new PR. For others itís about simply finishing and proving to ourselves and others that ďwe did it.Ē But no matter what your personal goal may be, we all have one common objective associated with our respective marathon journeys and that is to cross the finish line.

Therefore, in order to make it across the finish line, we spend countless hours training and preparing ourselves both mentally and physically for the challenges of race day. A solid training program ideally ensures that when we line up at the starting line, we know expect from ourselves in order to successfully complete the journey from Hopkinton to Boston on Marathon Monday.

However, as much as I like to think that I know what will await me on race day, in reality it is in many ways a great unknown.

While I have prepared for many varying scenarios I may encounter, the truth of the matter is that when it comes to race day, I must also be ready to expect the unexpected.

What do I mean?

In short, 26.2 miles is a long distance and there is a lot that can happen between the starting line and the finish line. Some factors we can control, others we canít, but itís how we react and respond to these unforeseen circumstances that can significantly impact the race day experience and associated results.

For starters thereís the weather.

As much as I would love it to be 55 degrees and overcast, we may not be so lucky. It may be warmer; it may be colder. It may be sunny; it may be raining. Therefore, you need to be ready for whatever kind of weather is delivered. To simply hope for or plan around a certain scenario, is a recipe for assured frustration. Now maybe we might get lucky, but I wouldnít count on it.

Then thereís your body.

Weíve all trained hard and prepared accordingly, but how your body reacts on race day may be much different than it has reacted during training. First off thereís the excitement and adrenaline rush that comes with race day. Then thereís the fact that youíre running 26.2 miles and the toll that takes on your body. As much as I pace myself during training, I always exert more on race day, and this adds whole other level of physical stress. Finally, there are the unforeseen cramps and aches that are bound to arise during the course of your run. Yes, running marathon is exhilarating, but it comes with a price. In short, your body is very likely going to throw you some curve balls and youíre going to have to address them on the fly.

On top of your body, is your mind.

I know Iíve said it before, but running is as much a mental sport as it is a physical one. What you think about and how you perceive your physical state via your mental mindset is critical. Speaking from experience, nothing amplifies discomfort more than a mindset that is focused on it. Yes, in my experience this has always been an area I have found most challenging about running a marathon. For me, if there is ever a reason for hitting a ďwallĒ itís at the point where the mind meets the body and the mind recognizes and acknowledges discomfort. While we all know that we will likely feel some level of discomfort during the course of race, the challenge arises from the fact that we donít necessary know where or when it will occur and the impact it will have on our performance. However, the harsh reality is that for most of us itís not a matter of ďifĒ itís just a matter of ďwhen.Ē Therefore, how you choose do mentally address and deal with these kinds unforeseen issues can have a significant impact on race day.

However, while running a marathon is likely to bring a host of unexpected challenges, one quality that I have always found to be common across all marathoners is that of perseverance.

We did not get to the starting line because we signed up yesterday. We have gotten there via a long and hard journey of commitment. Along the way we have likely encountered many challenges that have made us question what we are doing and why. Yet in the face of this adversity we still persevere.

Iíve always found it key to realize that race day is by no means an isolated experience. In reality it is the final phase of the journey you embarked on when you first committed to run this race. So while race day in Boston is sure to be exhilarating (trust me, it is), itís also bound to bring along some unforeseen challenges. The key here is not to be surprised; know that your body and mind will test you in ways you did not expect. However, itís also the ability to overcome these challenges and persevere through them that also makes the journey of running a marathon and finally crossing the finish line, so extremely rewarding.

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Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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