When a PR doesn’t Feel like a PR

This past Saturday, I set both a 10K PR and a half marathon distance PR. Yet, in spite of that success, it didn’t feel like a success because I felt like I could have done better.

My training run called for 13 miles this past Saturday. So, I set out to run at Huntington Beach. Just like I did when I had a 14 mile training run for the Disneyland Half, I thought this place would be great. Unlike when I trained for the Disneyland Half, this day was not filled with distractions from the start. This day, I was in a much better place mentally to tackle 13 miles. I even decided that I needed to add a little extra to see how fast I could finish the half marathon distance three weeks after the Disneyland Half Marathon.


The weather was great for running. I’m not sure of the exact temps, but it felt amazing! While I was doing my warm ups, there was an African-American lady who passed me. For the first couple miles, we would go back and forth passing each other and being passed. I would pass her on my running intervals and be passed by her on my walk intervals. After a few times, I noticed that she has a little girl with her who was riding a bicycle. The girl would ride for a while and then stop to wait. I mention the girl because, after mile 2, the woman never passed me again. However, I would see the girl all the way until I turned around 5.25 miles into my run. When I tuned around to go back to the Huntington Beach pier, I saw the woman whom I had been sort of running with in the first few miles not very far behind me. I honestly can’t help but wonder if, after two miles, she realized we were going the same pace and decided to just let me pace her. Who knows? We never got to talk. However, I thought it was kind of cool.

By the point I turned around, I was already a quarter of a mile ahead of where I was the last time I ran this path. It took me roughly 1 hour to cover 5.25 miles on Saturday. The previous trip down this path I was only crossing the end of mile 5 in an hour. Progress! I kept going strong in my 1:1 intervals. As I approached the end of mile 6, I knew that a 10K PR was coming. I absolutely could not believe that I was near the end of mile 6 in under 1 hour 12 minutes. It literally blew my mind! However, I was in a good groove during this mile and everything felt as good as could be. Not only did I finish 6 miles in under 1 hour, 12 minutes, but I finished the entire first 10K in under that time! Amazing for me!

Mile 7 continued the good vibes and I was feeling so comfortable for the most part in the pace I was going. It was awesome to be able to enjoy my music, the scenery, and still be able to run with a pace that was under 12 minutes per mile for more than 7 miles. Then, it happened…out of nowhere…on the 8th mile, my mind freaked out on me. It’s like my mind caught up with how fast I was going and told my body, “This is impossible! You must stop now!” I didn’t feel out of breath. I didn’t feel overly tired. However, my mental focus completely shut down on me and the thought of running another minute just seemed utterly impossible. Why did I believe this? I tried to fight through it. However, by the end of mile 8, all I wanted to do was walk. Don’t know where those thoughts came from. However, it is what I did. I walked almost the entire half mile between 8 miles and 8.5 miles. I felt so defeated and just wanted to stop.

By the time I reached 8.5 miles, I realized that I could still arrive at the end of mile 10 in under 2 hours if I got back to my intervals. That seemed to get me through the next mile and a half. Sure enough, I got there. I crossed the end of mile 10 in under 2 hours! Then, all I wanted to do was walk again. It was a fight the entire rest of the way. However, I finished the 13.1 miles in 2 hours, 43 minutes and change. That was nearly 20 minutes quicker than what I did at Disneyland three weeks prior and around 10 minutes quicker than I had covered the same distance on the same path 5 weeks prior. I should have been thrilled! So, why wasn’t I?

Well, all I could think about is how I should have gone even faster. What if I didn’t quit in mile 8? or 11? What if I had walked only half the time I walked in those miles? Could I have finished 13.1 miles in 2 hours, 30 minutes? What would my finishing time have been if only I hadn’t quit for those segments? What should have been a moment of triumph, turned into a moment of defeat. Here’s the thing. Two weeks ago, when I ran 11 miles, the same thing happened. That time it was in mile 9 and 11 that I found myself wanting to quit. For two long runs in a row, I found myself quitting mentally on a training run where I was running strong. The challenge for me is to find a way to overcome these mental lapses. My 11 mile training run at least saw those mental lapses happen because I felt fatigue. On this past Saturday, that wasn’t the case. My breathing was fine and I was seemingly running well. It’s my mental focus that short circuited. So, why did I quit?

In a little less than two weeks, I will be taking on my longest run ever…15 miles…and it only goes up from there. Maybe this whole 26.2 mile thing is starting to mess with my mind. Maybe, when I got past 7.5 miles, I started thinking about how much I had left to complete instead of just continuing to take each minute run interval as it came. I don’t know. However, I’ve got to find a way to overcome these mental blocks if I ever want to finish 26.2. Also, I did notice this time around that a few tracks I have on my playlist in the second hour had a way of killing the momentum I had already built up. So, maybe a slight tweak to my playlist might help. I already know that I need to add more music. After all, my current playlist is about 3 hours long. If I’m able to sustain my speed gains since the Disneyland Half Marathon, 3 hours might get me through this next long run of 15 miles, but not any further.

One thing I love about the beach is that has a great calming effect on me. So, after I finished, I walked along the Huntington Beach Pier for a little while to help get life back in focus. That really worked! By the time I got back to my car to drive home, I could see that I really did have a great run and should think about that as much as I was focussing on what could have been. Since the Disneyland Half Marathon, I’ve found myself raising the expectations I have.


My next half marathon is a little more than a month away. The Rock N Roll Half Marathon in Los Angeles is on October 27th and I really want to take 10 minutes off my Disneyland Half Marathon time in order to avoid being seeded in the last corral for the Walt Disney World Marathon. According to the pace calculators I’ve found online, if I take 10 minutes off the Disneyland Half time, I could in line for a marathon finish of under 6 hours. That might be enough to get me out of the last corral for the marathon. At least, that’s the way the seedings were for the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon. I didn’t like being in the last corral at the Disneyland Half Marathon. So, my motivation for working hard right now is to get out of that placing. I’m also planning on continuing that work past the Walt Disney World Marathon so that in the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon I’m in corral C or higher. That’s my goal. For this past Disneyland Half Marathon, corral C was for people who ran a half marathon in under 2 hours, 25 minutes. So, I’ve got some work to do.

3 thoughts on “When a PR doesn’t Feel like a PR

  1. Love this post! Running, especially marathon training is such a mental struggle. Thinking about the distance can really be daunting. I have to play mental games with myself to make it through the long runs. One trick I use it to think I’m going on an 8 mile run, water break, and another 8 mile run:) Crazy I know, but what gets ya through right?

    1. Hmmm. That sounds like a good idea. I’ll have to try that out on my 15 mile run next weekend. Thanks for sharing one of your tricks!

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