After four months of fairly consistent training, I completed my second London marathon in 2:52:15. The Good News: This was over 6 minutes faster than my first marathon. The Not So Good News: Without sounding too ungrateful, I was really hoping to dip under 2 hours 50 minutes but it wasn’t to be.
Since the day of the race, I have been racking my brains to figure out why I missed out on my marathon goal so narrowly. Was it due to a lack of training? Or a lack of race strategy? Or incorrect race nutrition?
Actually, I think that it is impossible to be 100% certain when you miss out on your goal so narrowly and the reason is not obvious (i.e. a mid-race injury). Following my post-race analysis, I have decided that those 2 minutes came down to 2 key factors: warm weather and misjudged pacing.
I think most of the runners at this year’s London marathon would agree that whilst the sun was a blessing it was a little too humid. This in turn required more hydration which can slow you down. Personally, I think that a stitch late in the race may have been worsened by taking on that extra fluid. As for my pacing, pre-race I knew that I needed to run 06:29 minute miles. I started out well, maintaining this for most miles, and when there were downhills I took advantage and speeded up.
Despite my trusty Garmin, during the second half of the marathon, I do not know how or why but pacing went from my mind. I was keen to enjoy and soak up the atmosphere and maybe this distracted me somewhat (this was worth missing my target by 2 minutes though). I’m delighted with a new PB time and will not dwell on what was missed. So that we can each improve from one event to the next, I have set out my post-race analysis procedure below.
1. Did you reach your goal?
Of course you need a defined goal in order to get this far, which is why I love to enter events because the goal becomes very obvious and easy to define (e.g. run a marathon under 3 hours).
As mentioned above, being honest with myself, I missed my marathon goal by 2 minutes this year but it was kind of a ‘secret goal’ which I hadn’t made known to others. This was perhaps a fatal mistake… it takes some guts but if you publicise your goal and put it out there then I strongly believe that you are more likely to achieve it. Take weight loss groups – they work on the basis of support and the necessity to avoid ‘failing’ your goal in such an open environment.
2. If yes, why? If no, why?
It isn’t easy to pinpoint the reasons for your success or failure but it certainly helps future chances of success if you can do some detective work. Where you enter a sporting event, the reasons for you achieving or missing your goal are likely to be multiple. As I note above, unless the reason is very obvious, you need to reflect in some depth. When I think back through an event, I can only recall a patchwork of moments from the race, with most of the time being a blur. This is why it is most effective to record your feelings and post-race thoughts on the same day as the event. Just jot them down – any thoughts on your nutrition, pacing, tactics – this will be very useful weeks after the race when you think about why you did or did not achieve your goal.
3. A visual memory for the future
It has been shown that storing positive visual memories in a memory bank can help us to succeed going forwards. If you reached your goal then it is simple: take a defining moment which gave you a buzz (e.g. crossing the race finish line arms raise like a champion) and store it in your memory. If you didn’t make your goal this time, it is a little trickier but you just have to be more creative and build that picture of success yourself taking a positive snapshot from the past. Building your memory bank of positive emotions can be a really useful tool come races and events, in the same way as having a positive mantra on repeat in your mind. I completed a hilly 20 miler 1 month before this year’s marathon and the positive memories from that race gave me some extra go-go power at the tough points in the marathon.
I am conscious that this article is geared to sporting events but broadly, I think we can apply a post event analysis to so many aspects of our lives.
Look back and find out what and why you have achieved and then store that in your memory bank for the tough times ahead! This goes hand in hand with the well known S.W.O.T analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) that can be used at anytime in our lives.
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