Coping with Post-Marathon Blues
posted on 4/22/14
It's always exciting watching the Boston Marathon. Every competitor has their unique story, whether they are elite or near the back of the pack. At every level, training for a marathon requires commitment, sacrifice, and long hours on the road alone with your thoughts. After putting in all that training and effort, it's natural for almost every runner to set ambitious goals. It's in the nature of most marathoners to embrace the challenge of trying to go beyond what they thought they were capable of. And every runner has learned there is no guarantee of success. The build up and anticipation can result in an intensely emotional experience.
By most accounts, Shalane Flanagan ran the race of her life on Monday. She shattered her personal best by over three and a half minutes, running an astounding 2:22:02. That time would have been good enough to win Boston every single year between 2003 and 2013. Unfortunately, this year she was surpassed by the best women's field in Boston's history. After leading through mile 18, the pack surged past her, and seemingly instantly, Flanagan was out of the picture. Four women ended up breaking the course record of 2:20:43, set by Margaret Okayo in 2002. Rita Jeptoo became a three-time winner with an incredible new course record of 2:18:57. Flanagan was a disappointing 7th place. Her personal best is certainly something to be proud of, but her goal was to win. She is an intensely competitive runner, as she showed in the 2008 Olympics where she won a bronze medal in an American Record time in the 10,000. “Every pushup I did, every crunch I did, every shake out run, there was a purpose behind,” Flanagan said at the press conference. “I was preparing not just for me, but for my city, my family and my nation.”
Ryan Hall also dealt with disappointment. He had some pretty consistent success at Boston, placing 3rd in 2009, 4th in 2010 and 4th again in 2011, but with a stellar PB of 2:04:58. Yesterday he was just 20th in 2:17:50, the poorest result of his career. On his Facebook page, Hall said, "Had higher hopes and expectations of myself, but I'm thankful to be healthy and a part of Boston Marathon this important year, a year I did not want to miss. And I'm so proud of Meb! Redemption happened on the streets of Boston."
Many others didn't perform as they hoped. Two of the top favorites, defending champion Lelisa Desisa and Dennis Kimetto both dropped out of the race. Even the best of the best have bad days. Elite runners aren't just dealing with their own expectations, but those of their fans, coaches and most importantly to their professional careers, their sponsors. And while they're professionals, it still can be an emotional experience, and can take a lot of discipline not to be discouraged. Hall chose to focus on the success of his countryman Meb Keflezighi, who became the first American to win Boston since 1983. It's hard not to be inspired by the fact that Meb turns 39 in just a couple weeks, and both Hall and Flanagan will have many opportunities for success, as long as they stay healthy.
It wouldn't be a challenge if it were easy, and all runners deserve to reward themselves after a hard effort with some relaxation, recovery and even celebration. Ryan Hall, Shalane Flanagan and many others will likely come back another day, smarter from their experiences and hungrier than ever. Some will find inspiration in competing in some shorter races, others might tackle another marathon in just a few months, and others might take a more patient approach and focus solely on training for another full year.
Have a story about your own marathon experiences? Share it below!
Tony has been a runner for over three decades, competing in cross country and track in high school and college, and road races for various clubs. He's served as team captain for several Corporate Challenge teams at YMCA of the USA, and has informally coached many friends over the years.
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