When I first started running marathons, social media wasn’t around. I guess chat rooms were still kind of a thing (does anyone remember chat rooms?!?!) and social media may have been in its infancy but I was definitely not cool enough to be into it.

So when I started training for the NYC Marathon in 2003, I told everyone by email or word of mouth that I was running. That way, I couldn’t back out. Everyone would know. It was a great motivator to get my training in.

Me and my very first marathon medal the next morning. Yay!

I finished! It was torturous, but I finished.

Every year after that, as marathon season ramped up, people would ask, “Are you running?” It was always an enthusiastic “YES” from me. For 9 years, I would share my racing plans with everyone, often times raising money for charities close to my heart.

More recently, I’ve been keeping my big races to myself. I happily train without telling anyone when I’m racing. I don’t share my splits on Daily Mile. I don’t share my runs and progress on Twitter. As much support as the cyber world can offer during training, there is also a lot of pressure that goes along with it.

The Hamptons Marathon (that became a half marathon for me) was a secret race.

The Hamptons Marathon (that became a half marathon for me) was a secret race.

Perfect strangers can track you online during a race and when people know your goals, they also know when you’ve failed to reach them. It sounds silly, but the goals I set for myself are very personal and I prefer to keep some of them private.

When I decided to train secretly (or just less publicly?) for the Hamptons Marathon this past Fall, I was unsure how my post-op body would respond.

From colostomy bag to J-pouch, my little body has been through the wringer.

From colostomy bag to J-pouch, my little body has been through the wringer.

Would my J-pouch hold up? Would I get sick again? Could I really get all that mileage in less than a year after two major surgeries? I signed up for the full marathon, knowing full well that I might need to drop down to the half.

I decided to keep the race (largely) a secret and see how training went.

Clearly, I was happy with my choice to drop down.

Clearly, I was happy with my choice to drop down.

I knew a few weeks before that this was probably going to be the case and I was oddly at peace with it. Because despite the 65 mile weeks, grueling summer workouts, and faster than ever times, I knew what I could do and what I couldn’t do. The half I could do, the full I could not.

It’s not that I’m afraid to publicly fail. I’ve done that plenty of times. It’s just that as I test myself and try new things, I prefer keeping those personal goals tucked close to my heart.

Close to my heart like my Peanut.

Close to my heart, like my Peanut.

Have you ever run a race and not told anyone you were training for it? Or do you prefer to get the support of your friends near and far during training? It’s totally a personal choice and I’m curious if anyone else has switched back and forth like me. Or maybe I’m just crazy…?

Now go out and run!

12 thoughts on “Secrets

  1. I ran two “secret” marathons and I think it is a great strategy for when you want to be more low key and take the pressure off. The first time was when I decided to run the Richmond Marathon a week after my NYCM DNF. All the people tracking me at NYCM and asking each other what happened when my splits slowed down and eventually stopped felt really overwhelming. I didn’t want that much interest in my performance, especially if I didn’t finish again, so I didn’t tell anyone and I had the most amazing race of my life. The second time was when I decided to use the Portland Marathon as a training run. I gave myself permission not to finish the race — it was a training run, nothing more. No pressure. But I knew if people were tracking me I’d feel pressured to finish even if I shouldn’t. I also didn’t want anyone interested in my time since it was a training run. Both secret races turned out to be the best marathons I’ve run!

  2. I was deep into training for the Philadelphia Marathon in 2012 before I told more than my oldest friend about it. It was my first marathon, and I just didn’t want to deal with a lot of questions and commentary. It definitely took some of the pressure off.

  3. I’ve absolutely trained for races and not told anyone. It’s scary enough to think of letting yourself down, but adding a bunch of other people to the mix? No, thanks. Now this past fall I did train for my first full marathon and was quite public about it, but I guess I felt more confident about it because of my ridiculously long training season (25 weeks!) and the competence of my running club and the women who lead the training (i.e. it wasn’t all based on some made-up training plan like all my previous races were). I will probably continue to flip flop on whether to share or not share in the future, and I’m totally okay with that.

  4. It’s not so much a conscious decision to “not tell anyone” as it is the people I know don’t care.

  5. I, like you, have done both. Right now I am training for my first full. I have told a select few. Partly because I have enough support at home and partly because I have a couple of things I’m dealing with. I’ve been having major stomach issues after any run longer than an hour. Luckily the issues are after my run and not during but it has me down and out for the day. I’m also having a knee issue. I am allowing myself the privacy because if it gets to the point that I have to bail or run the half I want to be okay with it and know one needs to know. I am hoping with all my heart to get to run the full. I have been a runner for over 20 years, I am 42 and I’d like to cross this off my running bucket list. I hope the time is now.

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