Learning To Celebrate The Small Wins

Note: originally posted in 2012

A couple of situations arose last week which inspired me to write this post. The first one was the unfortunate high temperature last Monday, which forced hundreds of Boston marathon runners to exit the race prematurely. The second had to do with yesterday’s Kourijima half marathon here in Okinawa, which due to humid and rainy weather conditions, also turned out to be a tough race for those who attempted to run it.

Perhaps because I had a personal interest in these races (my coaching partner and good friend Anna Boom was a participant in the Boston marathon, and one of my running clients was a participant in the Kourijima half marathon), was I moved to share my thoughts and convey a message that race results are not the “be all and end all!”

Setting PB’s (personal bests) and achieving podium-status awards should not directly equate to success or failure. On the contrary, race results should be treated as part of the overall prize package – with the prize package comprising of all the intrinsic rewards that are earned throughout the entire training process. There is much to be celebrated along the way. Greater endurance and speed for example, or perhaps a better body composition or greater confidence and self-discipline; these are all smaller “wins” that are worth reflecting upon and using as measures of overall performance.

My client, who recently ran the Kourijma Half Marathon, spent the past two months training incredibly hard. Her commitment to consistently follow a progressively structured training plan without taking any short cuts has led to faster run times and significantly improved endurance. Furthermore, she has gone from being a relatively inexperienced runner with uncertain expectations, to being a stronger, more informed runner with a whole new level of confidence that is spilling over into other areas of her life.

Would it make sense then to box up all of these positive outcomes and shelve them as obsolete because her race day goals were not met? I suspect that under better race day conditions, and on an easier course, my client would have done exceedingly well. I also have no doubt that my good friend Anna, who instead of reaching the Boston Marathon finish line almost collapsed in a first aid tent, would also have experienced a great race if not for the severe weather conditions. Understandably both ladies were disappointed, despite the obvious challenges they each faced.

However, while it’s normal to feel defeated and discouraged when hopes and goals are not realised, we should allow for only a brief time of permissible despair. You’ll be a far better person and athlete if you can quickly move on and reflect upon the entire race experience as a whole. In doing that you’ll be reminded of all the progress made since day one of training, and hopefully be more mindful of seeing future races as opportunities to celebrate the smaller but everyday gains and wins. And if race day goals are also achieved, then BAM! – that’s the icing on the cake.

Kourijima Half Marathon – rain and wind didn’t steal this couple’s joy; they finished and that’s worth celebrating!

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