Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays: Next Time

Happy Tuesday, friends! So many of you ran in Chicago, Baltimore and on Staten Island this weekend and the Fall racing season has only just begun!

So many races coming up!

So many races coming up!

The runners I’ve coached officially start their races this weekend. At this point, I’m just the person who talks everyone off the I-can’t-do-this edge. That’s my job.

But what if they really can’t do it?

Training for months, making travel plans, missing out on weekend events and parties just to get to the BIG DAY and NOT run? That’s frustrating.

And what is everyone going to tell you?

“There’s always next time.”

Ummm, yeah. Not what you want to say.

Ummm, yeah. Not what you want to hear right then.

It’s hard not to want to punch someone in the face who tells you, in your darkest moment, “You’ll get ’em next time.”

Really, cuz I didn’t train for next time, I trained for THIS TIME.

I feel you, guys. But here’s the reality of the situation:

  • You’re too injured to run.
  • Your body just can’t take it this cycle.
  • The race is cancelled.
  • The hurricane is NOT changing course.
  • You’re pregnant.
  • There’s no way you could have predicted XXX crisis/emergency.

So, yeah. There’s next time.

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Next time you’ll train smarter.

Next time you’ll choose a different time of year.

Next time you’ll know better than to try and do a marathon during finals/end of quarter/holiday season.

Next time you’ll hire a coach.

You know. Cuz it helps.

You know. Cuz it helps.

Next time you’ll cross train.

Next time you’ll see a PT when something STARTS hurting, not after 3 months.

Next time you won’t fall to pieces halfway through.

Count yourselves lucky that there will be a next time. For some runners, they’re not sure they’ll get to run this time, forget about next time.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but those of us who have been here wondered if there would ever be another next time.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but those of us who have been here wondered if there would ever be another next time.

So put on your big girl/big boy pants and figure out what you can do next time to make it better than this time. You can do it. I know you will do it next time.

And having a next time is way Better Than the Alternative, isn’t it?

Now go out and run.

Did Not Fail

Ahhhhhh, Fall! For most of us runners, Fall = running season. Cooler mornings, a race every single weekend until Christmas, and the threat of holiday weight gain urging us to employ our running shoes more frequently.

For many runners, it also means having our sights set on the finish line at some marathon or another.

NYC Marathon Finish Line. Mecca, for a lot of us.

16 weeks of training (or more), weekend after weekend of long runs, the shame of having to wear compression socks to the grocery store on Saturday afternoons, and more attention to our glutes than most of us like to admit culminates with 26.2 miles of foot-stomping fun.

But sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes a runner’s dream is dashed only weeks before the Big Race. Tendonitis, pulled muscles, stress fractures, catch-all joint syndromes, and mystery pains can keep the most seasoned marathoner from toeing the line this Fall. The dreaded DNF.

DNF usually stands for Did Not Finish. I hate this acronym. There’s an innate sense of failure in the wording that brings about feelings of deep shame to the individual whose name bears these three little letters on the runner roster.

But DNF doesn’t tell the whole story, nor is it the final chapter in your running book.

It takes courage to defer or call it a day. When you know your body can’t take any more, that running further or for more weeks would only be detrimental to your long term health, DNF-ing or deferring is SMART. In fact, it takes a smarter, more seasoned runner who knows their limits to call it a day.

The smart runner knows when it’s over.

The smart runner knows that one race does not define them.

The smart runner knows there will be more.

The smart runner knows when to ask for help.

The smart runner knows the difference between good pain and bad pain.

The smart runner pushes the limits and is ok when, occasionally, they fail.

The stupid ones (yes, I called you stupid) push through the bad pain and force themselves on the course simply for their own ego. You know where ego gets you? The orthopedic surgeon’s office and then the PT’s clinic for months and months in excruciating pain. Sounds fun, right?

To all of you who have called it a season, despite having paid for a marathon entry this Fall, I salute you. You are smart and brave and I applaud you for taking care of yourself, knowing there will be other races for you to rock.

Have you ever deferred or had to DNF? How did you feel then? How do you feel now? Are you considering a deferment this year? Share with us!

Now go out and run!