After the Richmond Marathon, I was upset.
I had a goal; I didn’t reach my goal. I felt extremely disappointed.
After all, I spent months working harder at running than I ever have before. For the first time in my life, I ran four and five days a week. I did tempo runs and intervals and speedwork and strides. I hired a coach. I put in all the work and on race day, I fell short.
It’s tough to put so much into one day — no, into a few hours — where anything can happen.
I posted a tweet about my disappointment. A minute later, someone else posted her own tweet. It might not have been in response to mine (though it certainly felt that way), but it got to me.
I don’t want to share the actual tweet, but the idea was that if you are upset about your time, it means you don’t respect the marathon distance. A marathon is something very few people can do and should only be treated like an accomplishment.
This felt like a rant against my emotions. Emotions I can’t control, emotions I feel only because they exist.
I thought a lot about this tweet: Am I wrong to be upset? Is my disappointment taking away from someone else’s joy about finishing? But how can I NOT be upset? I already know I can finish a marathon; I happily finished two before this one. So why am I judged for wanting to do better, wanting to improve, wanting to test my limits? Why can’t I feel like finishing 26.2 is no longer enough for me? Why is it wrong to express disappointment about failing at something I worked hard for? What does respecting the distance have to do with my drive to improve?
More importantly, how can one person tell another person her emotions are wrong?
Marathons are emotional.
No matter how race day goes, good or bad, the emotions are extreme. I can’t put into words how elated I felt after finishing the 2011 Richmond Marathon and the 2013 Portland Marathon. Finishing a marathon in good conditions is quite possibly the best feeling in the world. Why else do we runners do marathon after marathon, always trying to chase that high?
Alternatively, the disappointment I felt after the 2013 Richmond Marathon was also extreme.
So why is post-marathon happiness considered an appropriate emotion yet post-marathon upset considered a lack of respect for the distance? What does disappointment in oneself even have to do with the distance?
And what about the time I didn’t finish the New York City Marathon in 2011? I was so upset I couldn’t read Twitter, Facebook or blogs for a week because I didn’t want to hear about the race. Is it OK to be upset about not reaching your marathon goal if you don’t complete the distance? How is that different than being upset about completing the distance but not in the way you hoped? In both circumstances, I put in time and effort and made sacrifices in my personal life, all for something that did not go well in the end. And that is disappointing.
You feel these strong emotions — and then time passes and you move on. Yes, I was deeply upset after Richmond. I didn’t want to talk much about the race and I was unable to even feel happy that I set a great PR. I felt guilty for not feeling pleased about running a marathon time I never imagined possible just a year before. But I couldn’t help it. This was how I felt.
Then time passed and I got over it. Without the cloud of these emotions, I can now see the race for what it was — just a race.
And I am glad I experienced these strong emotions! If I didn’t feel disappointment in not putting on my best performance, what motivation would I have to improve? I’m not wallowing two months later. I felt sad and then I moved on.
And my next marathon? Whether I achieve my goal or not, I can guarantee one thing: it will be emotional.