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The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men -- and Runners

Posted by George Parker on
The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men -- and Runners

"But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
|In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men
          Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
          For promis'd joy!"
- To A Mouse, Robert Burns

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Truth spoken by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Or, as the equally famous boxer Mike Tyson once said, "Everyone has a plan until he gets punched in the face."

Getting to the starting line of your big race is the win. If you set a personal best in the process, great! But you cannot completely control what happens on race day. The best you can do is show up and perform at your best; the groundwork for that is laid in training. 

Many challenges can appear on race day. How many of us have trained for a marathon only for the weather to be hot and humid? Hot weather has happened to me three times in Chicago and Boston. Or it is rainy, miserable, and windy. Remember the 2018 Boston Marathon, where Yuki and Des won? Even with perfect conditions, you can get "punched in the face" by the dreaded "wall" of glycogen depletion or GI distress along with Porta Potties. With all the things that can go wrong, it is truly amazing and rare when you do run a great race. 

What matters is the effort. Completing a 13-week training block is demanding and difficult. Think about the sacrifices it takes to train. The early mornings and late nights. The missed social events. The hours away from home. The discomfort of workouts. The never-ending injury prevention, rehabilitation, and maintenance cycle. At the end of a training block, you are a different runner. You are faster, stronger, and more resilient every time. Whether that translates into a personal best is irrelevant when you shift your perspective. 

Your effort on race day matters. You cannot control the conditions. You can incorporate workouts into your training to block to best simulate race conditions. Over time, you will get better at learning what these key workouts for you are over time. You can practice your nutrition and pacing strategy in various conditions to perform at maximum effort given the day's circumstances. What happens after that is of far less importance. If you are a pro runner, winning a race can change your life. But we will not win the race for the vast majority of us. But we can elicit the same life-changing effect by showing up with maximum effort.

You have already won and become a different runner when you step on the starting line. How much better can you be? That is left for you to decide.

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