Dealing with disappointment

No high for me

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18/04/2012 at 09:02

Don't read if you've not yet run! It might not be what you want to see.

I finished my first marathon on Sunday (Brighton) and I'm finding myslef really disappointed. All the races in the build up, the long training runs suggested that I should have been on for nipping under 5 hours. And I didn't.

Set out fairly easily, didn't get carried away, but settled down at low 11:xx min miles. Didn't have a pace band or anything, just concentrated on the mile I was running. It seemed to be going OK, some slower, some faster, but nothing dreaful. The undulations are in the first half, so I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. Half way in 2:26.

I always race on manual lap, so there is always the possibility that it will go wrong - as this set of splits will prove. * show where it's 2 miles & I forgot to hit the button.

11:51, 10:54, 22:18*, 11:12, 10:54, 11:24, 10:45, 11:21, 11:08, 22:09*, 11:10 (to 13 miles - half 2:26)
11:09, 11:36, 11:45, 12:38, 11:06, 12:16, 25:44*, 24:34*, 11:58, 12:54, 13:26, 2:12

But, and this is the bit I think I'm most upset about - I just couldn't keep it going. Had a slow mile 15, when we turned back into the wind, then stopped and walked in mile 16. Nothing in particular hurt, it all just ached. Did some calculations and worked out that 5 was still on, if I could maintain 12:00 to the end. Well I consider 12:00 my easy "I could run all day" pace - but I couldn't even manage that.

I found the stretch from 20 to 23 just awful - and not helped by being knocked almost to the floor by a runner comming the otherway on the wrong side of the cones. Maybe I should have been looking where I was going & got out the way, but I was in my own private patch of hell and not looking too far ahead so I didn't have to see how far I had to go. I did salvage some pride and "run" (I use the term loosely) the last mile and found some pace for the last 0.2. But it's small comfort.

Crossed the line and all I could feel was relief it was over. No runner's high for me. I can't imagine I'm the only one who's run a marathon and it not go to plan, nor to be disappointed in a run. I don't even feel I can say I ran it, I'm sayiong I finished it. I didn't run it, I walked some of it - certainly more than I'd ever planned to.

I can see the only thing to do might be to try it again - but I really don't want to have to do that much training again in a hurry. I found it became something really intrusive -  it became something that life fitted round, rather than fitting into life.

My plan was to use the fitness and knock of some 5&10 k PBs, which I know I'm capable of; I ran a 5k for the middle section of a tempo run faster than my 5k PB! But at the moment I don't even want to put my shoes on & get out the door. I probably just need a slap, but any words from someone who's been in the same boat would be nice.

18/04/2012 at 09:10

Did you taper properly, so that you were rested before your race?

Some people find it hard to wind it down after months of increasing training.

Maybe you have a minor virus which is affecting you.

You need to take some time to recover (from race and/or virus), then decide if you want to try again.  You don't have to do anything immediately.  Wait until you feel like going for a run.

18/04/2012 at 09:17

HL - I had 6 years between my first two marathons such was the hate that i had for the distance, now i have 10+ mara finishes and my races still don't always go to plan. My good friend has missed dipping under 4hr three time by less then 10 seconds.

You were so close to going under five you shouldn't be so hard on yourself. Easy to say but if marathons were easy then where would the challenge be?

Look at Paula Radcliffe running her half on sunday, missed her target time by three odd mins and if you listen to her interview on the BBC site you'll see she has no answers as to why she struggled.

How did your nutrition work on the day?

And the runner on the wrong side of the cones..saw lots of this which was unfourtunate.

Chin up

18/04/2012 at 09:23

Oh Helen, so glad I found this post, I think you live near me and we have shared stories on the Brighton website. Trust me there is life after a disappointing marathon.

Having run a 5.29 last year and feeling much like you I can tell you that it is possible to pick yourself up and have another go. For me, straight afterwards I concentrated on 10k races for the summer following a RW plan. It was great the mileage was so much lower but of course the intensity is higher. By Auitumn I was focusing on my 10 mile times and then a half at the end of the year. By then I felt ready to go into marathon training again.

I really felt that I had to run a first marathon to see what it felt like, yes it felt pants but come the next one I knew exactly what I would be up against and what work I had to do and somehow the second one felt so much easier. Yes I worked hard for it but I think I really knew what I was taking on this time something I just couldn't imagaine before the first one.

You dont need a slap, but you also dont need to run again until you feel ready to. I think we are all so diffrenet, for me it was about having short term goals but for some people I know its about the getting back out and enjoying running again just because you can.

I really hope you can carry on running, after all you are a marathoner!!!!

18/04/2012 at 09:29
(((Helen)))  I'm sure you're not the only person who felt nothing other than relief it's over, but I think there are fewer people who have the courage to admit that when there is a real culture on the forum that 'going long' is best etc.  It's very easy to feel like there's something wrong with you when everyone is elated and you think you're the only one thinking "never again".  I trained for an Ironman once (which I DNFd) and I absolutely understand your apprehension about continuing to train for something which takes so much out of your life.  I also didn't like what the training did to me.  I had time for nothing else and it just became all-consuming.  My social circle slowly reduced itself just to a small core of people who all did the same thing etc.  I had no energy for any other hobbies or interests anymore.  Towards the end the training sessions felt like nothing but an added chore in my life and I thought this is not how it should be.  Also physically it took me the best part of a year to recover from certain overuse injuries, and some things are still not quite right.  I just had to be honest with myself that, while I quite enjoyed little local sprint tris and the social side of those etc, I just didn't want my whole life to revolve around tri.  You just have to ask yourself, "who am I actually doing this for".  Find a distance YOU are comfortable with and that you can happily integrate into your life without feeling that the training plan requirements are doing your head in and just be happy.   And congratulations on finishing by the way. x
Edited: 18/04/2012 at 09:31
18/04/2012 at 09:30

have been there. think the first few days immediately afterwards are hard - despite everyone around you being amazed that you have run 26.2 miles.

sometimes there is no way of explaining why a race did not go to plan. it does sound like you hit the proverbial wall so you could think about experimenting with different gels/drinks/snacks?

but - in a couple of weeks once you get over the physical impact of the race and your mind clears a little, go for a gentle run with no rules - as far or as short as you feel. as fast or as slow. ease yourself back in.

and then ponder what's next. shorter races will give you the confidence back, but most people i know (myself included) only really intended to run one marathon but ended up doing more!

If you decide to do another one, then the experience which is disappointing you now will be invaluable. chin up!

18/04/2012 at 10:50
I think I am somewhat in the same boat as you. Everyone around me is very upbeat about what I achieved, but I have a sense of 'if only' hanging around. I've decided to focus on some shorter races, and that becomes my focus now, as well as carefully analysing my race to see where I might improve (note: not "where it went wrong" - I'm trying to be positive). I'm going to focus on speed training for a while, and strengthening my core: both issues I feel I could improve on.

The difference now is that we have times to beat - I think that will also help focus the mind come the next big one.
18/04/2012 at 10:52


I think its called post marathon blues. I've had it a couple of times. Even when I got a planned time I remember on the second marathon I did feeling a real let down, that all the training I'd done for 3 months was over and done with in a few hours, and wondered was it worth it? I've stopped putting pressure on myself for a set time now, or I have 3 times in my head, an everything going fab time, an okay time, and an everything going belly up time. In the same way as sometimes a training run goes to pot, so can a race and its real tough when thats a marathon. At Brighton last year I managed a number of 18 mile training runs and carried on running, but on race day I had to walk at mile 15.

It was your first marathon so its a pb - well done.

18/04/2012 at 10:55

Oh Helen! *hugs* 

I do sympathise, at the beginning of training I thought a 4.30 finish would be achievable, closer to race day I aimed for a sub-5hour and ended up with 5.14 on the day. A lot of my friends who ran Brighton or Paris this weekend are already talking about signing up for another one (and I know the Brighton crew have already!) whereas I'm thinking "do I EVER want to do a marathon again?"

I ran the first and second half in exactly the same time which I was pleased about, but I had issues within each half that slowed me down - 15 min queue for portaloos in the first and a major freakout over hamstring niggles between 16-18 miles that was far more mental than physical. I lost at least another 15 minutes but probably more faffing around with run-walking (which just hurt more than 'running') and honestly questioning whether I should just stop.

I managed to pull it back together from 19 miles onwards, but I've no idea how! The photos of me just before 25 miles look like I'm crying (and I probably was!)

Definitely don't beat yourself up about having walked some of the marathon, ok, you walked a bit, but you picked yourself up and ran after that. Lots of people just carry on walking until the end. You even ran at the very end of the race when that extra 0.2 of a mile seems like it might as well be 10 miles away from where you are! This was your first marathon and you had no experience at that distance, even though I know you prepared really well with your training - it's not the same as having the marathon day experience under your belt.

Think about all the ups and downs in training. I know I certainly had a lot of them, sometimes it was easy to pinpoint the cause (no sleep, poor hydration, HILLS!) but sometimes I thought I had prepared really well for a run and I would have a rubbish result.

Think about how hard your first 5km, 10km and half marathon were and how they feel now. I remember my first half marathon felt like hell, but I actually enjoy running them! I know where my "gears" are for those distances - so I'm able to push at certain points and coast at others. I still find marathon distance a struggle, and I don't have my gears in place yet. Especially in the final miles, I only seem to have "go" and "stop"!

I think we'll both feel much more confident with the distance with practice, and may actually get to the stage when we enjoy the entire thing! Instead of thinking about your next target, why not just try to recapture the feeling of enjoying a run? Next time you go out, pick your favourite route or find a new interesting/pretty one and go out for a really easy 5km. You've earned the right to have a bit of time off from 'racing' and just enjoy running for the sake of it.

Hope you feel better soon - enjoy vegging out this week, and do celebrate your achievement,  you deserve it!

18/04/2012 at 11:20

((Helen)). I've been following your story on the various pages and on your blog and i'm sorry that it didnt work out. i can't suggest anything different to what's already been given but take the "small" congratulations where they are due

- you completed a marathon !! That's a lot more than others can/have done.
- you were realistic about your aims/goals.
- your time is your marathon PB!

Well done!

18/04/2012 at 11:48

I had this exact problem in Brighton last year and although was very grateful for everyone's kind words, something was still niggling in my head.

I was set for a sub-5 time but due to the heat, not fueling properly and a cramp, I finished in 5.42, which was a massive let down.

The only thing which improved the situation was, a year later, volunteering to give out medals at the finish line in Brighton.

Seeing the people coming over the line in 5.45, 6 hours, 6.30, and even 9 hours, made me realise they, me, and you, have let ABSOLUTELY nobody down.

That, and hopefully finishing in 4.59 in London this weekend  

18/04/2012 at 12:15

Adam, thanks for your post - I never thought about it from a volunteers perspective   Did you see the Moonwalking chap?

Best of luck for VLM this weekend - remember to stop by the Runner's World support crews at Mudshute (Mile 17) for some encouragement and jelly babies!

18/04/2012 at 12:25

Emmy - you're one of those first timers I was trying to not worry.  But thanks for the positive thoughts.

Yes, I did taper, as per instructions (sort off - had a scared week off mid way worried about a knee). Mentally I found it really difficult, far too much time for the butterflies to grow to the size of elephants.

I'm still tired, but not feeling ill, so I'm not sure I can claim under the weather. I was tired during the last month/6 weeks of training and during taper. I have had anaemia before, so stuck myself on iron pills as a precaution.

Soupy's got the conundrum, I did a 20 mile race in 3:41 and ran every step, so not sure why it felt so much harder at 15/16 miles than it did then.

I had practiced with gels every 5 miles and stuck to that during the race, although I did have one at ~ 22/23 miles as a psychological boost. I carried them with me, and took water from the stations - although not at every one.

Publically I'd said I wanted to finish. And if you'd asked me when I entered if I'd be happy with low 5:xx, I'd have bitten your hand off in delight. But, having thought sub 5 should have been doable, I'm disappointed to have missed it - and run a bad race in the process.

Quite pleased to discover that this isn't just me - not that I'd wish anyone else into the same boat!

18/04/2012 at 12:27
Massive cross post (I'm at work!) - Adam, thanks for adding that view as well.
18/04/2012 at 12:30

We didn't unfortunately, I was on the finish all day so only heard about him from other volunteers! We did see the chaps carrying full army kit, the rhino, the fireman with a dummy on his back and the guy carrying a tiger!

I found being at the finish from the fastest to the slowest runner really inspirational, and would recommend it to anyone.

It made me realise that it was stupid comparing myself to other runners, people came through at all different times in all different shapes. Except the sub-3 crowd. They all looked pretty good!

I'll keep an eye out at mile 17! I think that's where my Mum and Dad are planning to be too so that should be a good combo.

18/04/2012 at 12:31

Helen - you didn't run a bad race. You ran a good race. It was your first at the distance and those last 6 miles are difficult to prepare for when you don't know what it feels like. Its not called the road to hell for nothing. 

Now repeat after me three times - "I am a marathoner"

18/04/2012 at 12:34

I've dealt with disappointment post races. When I first started running I did a few 10ks. I got a time I was reasonbaly happy with, but always felt I should be able to go a bit quicker. So I entered more 10ks and couldn't get close to my PB. SO I entered a half marathon. My 10k time suggested I should be around 2 hours, and I finished in 2:15. Again I entered a few more over the space of 6 months, and with more trainign I got slower! So I upped the distance again and did a marathon. Smashed my half marathon pb but still havint beaten the 10k one! I slowly learned over this time that (1) I enjoy racing more when I don't put pressure on myswlf about a finishing time and (2) when I race is going well (such as my pb half) you can fly rouns feeling like it's easy, but when a race is going badly and the target time is slipping away, every step can feel like a chore. I've looked back at races and beat myself up thinking "why did I walk then? if only I'd pushed I could have got xxx time" But the only thing that kept me going is entering the next race and focussing on the next goal. Oh and If you think it's bad you've walked in a marathon - I've walked in a 5k race! 

I also agree marathon training does take over your life. I decided to take a year off marathons for that reason, and I'm currently debating whether to enter Brighton for next year or whether to have another non marathon year. I want to work n shorted distances, the long term idea being if I can improve my basic speed then the marathon runs should't take quite as long! not sure if this will work though! 

18/04/2012 at 12:35


it happens to us all -

just see it as a bad ish day and move on

ive had days like that with Phillip and years ago without Phillip

somtimes one can search for a reason and answer - only to never find it

my only thoughts are reading first bit is that you wasnt probably as frsh as you thought you was

just booked in down to expereince

my best wishes always

Mick x

18/04/2012 at 12:36

Soupy, I can't possibly give in to such a daft sounding word! Marathoner my foot

I have finished a marathon. I have a monsterous piece of bling to prove it.

I have finished a marathon. I have a monsterous piece of bling to prove it.

I have finished a marathon. I have a monsterous piece of bling to prove it.

18/04/2012 at 12:43
Helen Liz wrote (see)

Soupy, I can't possibly give in to such a daft sounding word! Marathoner my foot

I have finished a marathon. I have a monsterous piece of bling to prove it.

I have finished a marathon. I have a monsterous piece of bling to prove it.

I have finished a marathon. I have a monsterous piece of bling to prove it.

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