races are a funny thing and runners are even funnier. 

we push our bodies to our limits, sometimes we give in to those limits and sometimes we push them even further and actually push beyond them.  what happens on race day happens.  there is no going back and no way to recreate the moment to know what would happen differently. 

i have been thinking a lot about hindsight lately and have even been seeing it a lot on other’s blogs, so i know we all do it.  as runners, no matter what happens in our races, we almost always look back at them with some sort of “i could have done better” thoughts.  no matter how hard you push during a race, no matter how well you executed your race strategy, we always make room for hindsight.

i am a 100% guilty of this.  i have one race i can think of, where i didn’t feel those after thoughts of why didn’t i push harder?  half marathons, 5ks, marathons… it happens in them all.  after big sur, even though this was my no time goal pressure race, i STILL looked back and had a few of those thoughts.  why did i walk?  why didn’t i just run up those last hills?  i could have pushed harder.  i could have at least beaten 3:57. 

i immediately recognized this when i started thinking these thoughts and shut them down.  this was not what this race was about to me.  it was about running a marathon in one of the most scenic places i know of.  it was about celebrating how much i love to run and about conquering those massive hills.  it was about crossing the finish line of my seventh marathon with a smile on my face.  this marathon was about not looking back and having any doubts. 

we are so hard on ourselves and often as the pain fades, we forget what we were really going through at the moment.  every once in a while it’s warranted, but really you cannot question yourself after the fact.  when you are at mile 23 and you are not feeling great, things are very different then 3 days, or even 3 hours, after the marathon when you are thinking a little clearer and have already forgotten what it really felt like in the moment.

only look back to learn from those moments.  don’t second guess yourself and diminish your accomplishment, because with a finish line is always an accomplishment.  don’t doubt that you didn’t give it your all in that moment, because in the end you can’t turn back time, you can only take what you learned try again.     

are you guilty of doubting your efforts after the fact?

then there is the other side of it.

since you are questioning yourself and your efforts after the fact, you are also forgetting really how hard it was.  those moments where you think or say you will never do this again seem to fade away and you start planning your revenge.

during those last 4 hours of the relay and on the way home i said never again and i meant it.  i even mentioned it at the end of my race report.  in my last leg, i told myself i wouldn’t run my half marathon this weekend because there was no possible way i could based on the way i felt.  but yet here i sit, packed for my race this weekend and thinking about what relay i could do in the future and how i could make it better. 

we are a funny bunch that’s for sure.  

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39 Responses to hindsight

  1. Meg May 5, 2010 at 7:46 pm #

    "Funny" is a great way to describe us all but in reality, we are kind of crazy! I love this post because it could be any one of us :) ! I hope your race goes well, have fun.

  2. naomi May 5, 2010 at 8:03 pm #

    this is one of my most favorite posts ever. so good!

  3. Jamie May 5, 2010 at 8:12 pm #

    we are a funny bunch! this post is perfect and have repeatedly doubted my efforts after the race AND said never again or what the hell was I thinking!

    Good luck with race weekend 3 or 3!

  4. copiaverborum May 5, 2010 at 8:26 pm #

    Most runners are Type A. We set goals and we push ourselves to break them. Then, we make new goals. Cyclical. I guess it's part of who we are.

    I definitely related to this post. Good one!

  5. Mica May 5, 2010 at 8:56 pm #

    I doubt myself all the time. Before, during, and after the fact! (In life, as well as in my running) I should try to be more like you–set my goals and GO AFTER THEM!

  6. Petraruns May 6, 2010 at 1:04 am #

    We DO all feel this way and I think you're right – it's pointless. We can ONLY make these decisions – to slow down, to smell the roses, to walk – in that moment. Only then do we know how it feels.

    It's a bit like childbirth I have to say – when you're in it the pain is unbelievable and I remember thinking I will never be okay again and then as soon as it's over you're like "yep I did that, easy peasy, on with life"… Amazingly it doesn't put you off..

  7. misszippy May 6, 2010 at 1:48 am #

    So very true. I do it every time. One of my friends pointed out though that we need to remember that we did the best we could in that moment and we shouldn't doubt that afterwards. I guess it's just our nature!

  8. Bethany + Ryan May 6, 2010 at 2:30 am #

    sometimes i look back wishing had done better but its usually short-lived. maybe a few hours to a few days and then i usually forget about it. like my 3:40:02 at Boston was fine but damn, if i could have only been 3 seconds faster!

  9. Running and living May 6, 2010 at 3:40 am #

    You are so right. We do this. I think that if we entertain such thoughts while putting ourselves down, etc, then I agree, nothing good comes out from it. However, if we analyze the race and learn about it, than it is all good! For me, no matter how well I do in a race, I still think I could have done better. I think this keeps me motivated:)

  10. Britt May 6, 2010 at 4:28 am #

    Totally guilty of all of that. I am trying to get better at using that post race analysis for improvement rather than putting myself down. Like finding more motivation for running hills or doing speed work…. both of which I hate but as a result my times haven't been as fast and hills totally drain me.

    Oh and I have learned that saying "never again" is so not true….. LOL

  11. Marlene May 6, 2010 at 5:15 am #

    We sure are. :)

    I think we definitely forget the pain to an extent. I tend to block out those really painful moments, when it felt like I couldn't possible go on, certainly not any faster! When I felt like I should just walk the rest of the race, or quit all together.

    For that reason, it's easy to think we could have done better. But at the time, we sure didn't think we could!

  12. ShirleyPerly May 6, 2010 at 5:20 am #

    This is an interesting post. I think the first 2-3 years of getting into racing I was on my own and pretty much going from race to race trying to do the best I could at nearly every race or thinking I should have. But now with 5-10 yr racing goals, getting into triathlons where there are so many more variables and things you can't control, and working with a coach who tells me how to race certain events so that I can get the most out of them but still meet my long term goals, things are very different. Being a Type A person at heart this has been a huge turnaround for me but probably the reason I haven't yet burned out and am still in the sport looking forward to competing in the F50-54 age group next year!

  13. Stuart May 6, 2010 at 5:34 am #

    Ah well we all train for race day, but sometimes the day and race day don't sync up!

  14. The Happy Runner May 6, 2010 at 5:48 am #

    This is spot-on!
    I always doubt my efforts. Such a funny habit :-)

  15. Emz May 6, 2010 at 6:04 am #

    Thanks for this…….could not be more true.

    fabulous post.

  16. Roisin May 6, 2010 at 6:23 am #

    I'd go with crazy, too. I know I'm guilty of those thoughts as well.

  17. marathonmaiden May 6, 2010 at 6:40 am #

    spot on (per usual) i'm so guilty of this stuff too. like my last race went SO WELL. but now, with it a memory of sorts, i'm thinking well…i *could* have been better. crazy! but i think it's good because i did get to bask in the goodness for a bit and now i'm hungry to attack my goals in future races

  18. Vava May 6, 2010 at 6:56 am #

    The looking back and thinking about how we could have done better is definitely not confined to runners. I can't remember a single race when I was swimming where I didn't dissect it after the fact and, invariable, found room for improvement. "That flipturn at the 550m mark of that 1500m could have been done a little closer to the wall", "I took one extra stroke on lap 12 because I came up too early off the turn," etc…

    What is typically missing is a balanced view of the positives. After all, what the hell are we running for anyway? Certainly not to get down on ourselves! Keep on truckin'!

  19. simplyrunningonfaith May 6, 2010 at 7:13 am #

    We are a crazy bunch. I think that's why I have not signed up for another marathon until I "forget" those cursing moments of the last one. Soon, there will be that moment where I'll consider a new one. As far as the relay, I am down for another haha…

  20. Denise May 6, 2010 at 7:33 am #

    i'm totally guilty of looking back and questioning everything, even when the race goes exactly how planned. i still think i could have done better.

    i remember posting that i'd never do another ultra and here i am panic stricken that my injury is going to keep me from doing it again this summer.

  21. Alisa May 6, 2010 at 7:42 am #

    Yup we're all a little nutty! Recognizing that is half the battle right?

    It's so much easier to tell someone else they ran a great race than to tell yourself you ran a good race =).

  22. Sarah Woulfin May 6, 2010 at 7:51 am #

    Heya, BIG thanks for this pep talk—I needed it badly after Avenue of the Giants :O Don't worry, I'm beginning to plan my revenge!!!!

  23. Glenn Jones May 6, 2010 at 8:24 am #

    I use a poker analogy (yeah – I play a lot of poker). After every tournament, I analyze my hands. I can always go back and find other hand I *could* have won. But, if I'm in the winner's seat, those other hands really don't matter do they?

    Kind of like running in many respects. Did you meet your goal? If so, all those "other things" you could have done don't really matter. They only matter if you failed to meet your goal. Now stop beating yourself up….

  24. Katie May 6, 2010 at 8:45 am #

    I agree 100%. Runners are generally silly/crazy. But I think we're all guilty of looking back and wishing for more. I remember, the morning of my first post-injury 5K (why is so much of my running defined by injury?), looking back at the race and thinking, "gosh, I had so much left in the tank, why didn't I push harder?" But I agree with a lot of the other comments, as well – we forget the pain and focus on the places where we are lacking, when instead we should celebrate our successes. You did your seventh marathon – to me, someone who has done zero – this is an amazing feat!!!!!

  25. Katie A. May 6, 2010 at 8:57 am #

    Did you write this post for me? Tee hee :)
    I am guilty of this all the time, I think it's the type-A, perfectionist in me. And I'm good at bargining with myself in the last few miles of a race, too! Although, unlike you, when I finished on Sunday I couldn't wait to do it again! I hope you do, too!
    Good luck this weekend!

  26. Jo Lynn May 6, 2010 at 9:10 am #

    There's not a person out there that doesn't think us runners are CRAZY! And, you just proved it. LOL ;)

  27. k May 6, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    I agree- you say funny, I say crazy. I am DEFINITELY crazy like that. I constantly doubt my efforts after the fact…I think I'm also guilty of letting up a bit too early when the going gets tough though. So it is a fine balance that I haven't quite learned yet.

    Good luck with the half!

  28. Jess May 6, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    I used ot be more judgemental with myself after races, but now, I think I've changed a lot and I run for different reasons than I used to, so I'm not as hard on myself now. And, suprisingly, the more relaxed I am about goals and effort, the better I do.

  29. runner26 May 6, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    omg–i am TOTALLY doing this and have been all week (re: new jersey marathon). but you're right–at the time, i was a salt tablet away from needing medical attention. but i've been bumming about the fact that i had to walk and ended up with such a bad time. even though i didn't care about my time from the start. now that i'm recovered, i feel like i could've run more.. eh, the sun sucked.

  30. Heather May 6, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    I think I have had moments during every race where I think this is definitely my last race, why do I do this to myself. And then I get home and start planning the next one. We are a funny bunch!

  31. Candice @ I Have Run May 6, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

    I love this post! It is so true, and you ask a very good question: I am guilty of doubting my efforts after the fact. I have also said "never again" more than once, only to find myself in the same place again.

    Good luck picking your next relay! =)

  32. purpleshoeruns.com May 6, 2010 at 5:52 pm #

    so SO true! Great post Aron!

  33. Abby May 7, 2010 at 2:31 am #

    I love this post! For better or worse (and I agree – there are lessons to be learned, and times to sit back and be proud of yourself), I do this ALL the time.

    Good luck at the half this week!

  34. AppleC May 7, 2010 at 6:44 am #

    You describe runners perfectly. I always find myself wondering why I didn't push a little harder. I ask "did I really feel that I couldnt do better?
    I'll have to remember that crossing the finish line is the goal to meet.

  35. X-Country2 May 7, 2010 at 10:21 am #

    Great post! (As usual.) Also, thanks for the race report below. Sounds like a fun time.

  36. Julianne May 7, 2010 at 12:26 pm #

    I love your "deep thoughts"! We all love to do better than the last time, push ourselves to the limit and try our best. At the time, that was the best we could do, I guess. There's always the next race, right?? :-)

  37. Chic Runner May 7, 2010 at 1:49 pm #

    I do this SO much. We all do I think, we all know what we are capable of and not reaching that goal is a little deflating sometimes. :/ But we do have to remember what we are doing and how special that is in the end! :)

  38. sunapeegirl May 8, 2010 at 9:16 am #

    Yeah, I definitely do this to a certain extent, but I'm always pretty happy afterwards anyways. There will always be those "if I had done this" moments in life, but I try not to dwell on them.


  1. dealing with disappointment | runner's rambles - January 17, 2011

    [...] hindsight – questions your efforts after the fact q&a – how i dealt with not reaching my BQ a few times the other side – the hard side of racing, when you don’t get your goals. [...]

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