5 months ago, I took part in an international marathon. I did not run the full length but only the half-marathon.
In my history of jogging, I have never experienced such a daunting run. In fact, in 2018 I ran the same marathon and really enjoyed the experience.
The problem with this one is that I was ill-prepared. Not intentionally of course, but because of some factors I failed to consider when preparing for the activity. If you are a fan of running, you know that participating in a 21km run is not as easy as running the routine 5–10km run that you can do each day without much trouble.
So, when preparing, I relied heavily on a common fitness app to record my distance, speed, and also track my progress. That was a big mistake. I intensified my training as the day neared and then stopped a week from the main event so that I can have enough energy to run the distance when the day came.
On the material day, I woke up early and headed to the starting point. I was full of energy and expectations. I knew that I would beat my previous year’s record and run the distance in under 1 hour and 50 minutes. As it turned out, I was in for a rude shock.
At the starting line, I was very energetic skipping here and there, doing small sprints, and even stretching, exaggeratedly! I am sure guys must have wondered what this expert was doing behind the ceremonial line of the professional athletes that were in it for the prize money. I was pretty sure that I would fall just a few minutes short of the time these expert runners did.
When we started running, I kept to my strategy. Set my own pace without concentrating on what anyone else was doing. I was to maintain this pace for the length of the race regardless of the many temptations to do otherwise. For example, a tall, broad, middle-aged man passed me in a fuss, which made me increase my pace for about a minute to catch up with him only to remind myself that I was not competing with anyone. Another time, a beautiful woman, probably a gym trainer, nudged me to follow her but boy, that pace was beyond me even if I had chosen to disregard my strategy all the same.
I managed to keep my pace for the larger part of my race — or so I thought. All this time listening to the app’s directions on where to increase the pace, where to slow down, my average pace and all the finer details. My favorite workout hits were also playing through my headphones.
In the 19th kilometer, from my app, I decided to look up and concentrate on the other runners. I was pretty exhausted. I was 2 kilometers shy of completing my half-marathon. I did a mental calculation and realized that from the last year’s run, the finishing point was further than the 2 kilometers the app was showing. Nonetheless, I figured out there was a deviation in route this time around.
However, before I could summon the strength for the home stretch, I saw a banner with 13 kilometers well-inscribed on it in blue color. I was officially doing my 14th km but my app had been lying to me all along. A quick mental calculation indicated that I had 8 more kilometers to run. Honestly, I only had the energy for 2. My app had been misleading me all along.
The sad realization was that I was doomed since I started doing my practice because the app never calculated the distance well, which interfered with the pace, and ultimately, my endurance. I was crushed. Simply stated, my strategy was dead. I had to think of a come-back plan. Truth be told, there was no energy in me to run for 8 more kilometers.
Ultimately, I had to walk for quite some distance. I am not proud of it. When I reached the finishing line, most of my colleagues were already there. Some had not had a single day of practice before the event and even though they ran shorter distances, they looked refreshed. I, on the other hand, looked as if I had just survived a holocaust.
One of the first comments I received from the group was, “Dude, your mouth is dry and white.”
That day, I almost died before getting to the finish line. Later on, I tried doing the routine aerobics to ease the muscles but I was unable to.
As much as I would like to blame the app for my inability to perform well in the half-marathon, I am purely to blame. I was ill-prepared and lacked a contingency plan to combat any unforeseen issues such as the failure of the technology. When it happened, it caught me flat-footed.
However, I learned a few things that have helped me greatly in other aspects of my life; all that are viable in every single activity I undertake daily.
- Always have a Plan B
A back-up plan is pivotal in ensuring that your plans come to fruition. Going at an activity without one amount to a soldier going to battle with only the bullets in his rifle. It means that if the ammunition depletes, he is exposed to the enemies and may pay dearly with his life.
In my case, I went to the marathon, with only the app estimates as my only weapon. I did not consider the event that the app may fail or mislead me in some way. I was so blind and dependent on the app such that I did not realize that there were banners all over showing the actual distance I had covered. In fact, I would have arrested the app’s malfunctioning during training, which would have saved me the trouble in the actual event.
A contingency plan is important because it is a survival tactic. Something akin to the battery saving mode of our gadgets. It serves as the best remaining alternative when failure stares you in the face. The good thing with back-up plans is that you can have multiple, which may complement each other to achieve the intended objective.
2. You Probably are not an expert
Well, whether you are an expert or not does not depend on you. It is entirely for other people to label you in that regard. In most cases, when you term yourself an expert, you get a false sense of confidence that increases your chance of failure.
Evan Esar, an American humorist defined an expert as “a man who always has a good reason for guessing wrong.”
He alludes to the point that it is not uncommon to see experts being in the wrong and trying to justify it using their prior knowledge or experience.
Before my marathon, I thought I would kill it. I based my performance on the previous marathon to guess the outcome of the upcoming one. Therefore, I went to the marathon deeming myself an expert in doing a marathon. How wrong I was! If I had questioned my preparation on the various parts of the marathon, the app would have come up and I would have figured out that I did just fine without it in the last marathon.
I would also have put up more effort in my training rather than sticking to a seemingly in-form ‘safe pace’ that never worked in the actual marathon.
3. Attitude Matters, Regardless.
I also learned that attitude is an important virtue in all undertakings. The difference between winners and losers lies in the perception each has towards the task at hand. For instance, a successful writer and a struggling one can be separated by their attitudes towards the art; the former with a positive one and the latter with a negative or impartial one.
“Sooner or later, those who win are those who think they can” — Richard Bach
This quote by Richard Bach, author of best-selling books including Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, sums up the importance of a positive attitude in each activity.
In my race, I had a positive but unsustainable attitude towards it. However, my perception was pegged on the app. Therefore, when my app failed, I had little chances of retaining the positive outlook at the undertaking. Moreover, I did not possess the winning mentality, which exacerbated my exhaustion.
The interesting part is that almost all my colleagues had remarkable attitudes towards their runs. It did not matter if they did 5km, 10km, or 21km (no one did 42km, obviously). At the finish line, they were all smiles and walked around the resting area leisurely, unlike me who looked as if I had had a battering of a lifetime.
Picture this, you having multiple routes to achieving a goal, doubting your methods and skills to ensure you are always on your toes, and maintain a winning mentality at all times — you will break even the most reinforced barriers and shine in perpetual victory. Think about it. Think…and then act on it.