In professional distance running, a win does not always equal a victory. Only 1 person can cross the finish line first, meaning that there is just a single victor, a lone champion. So if you define success or failure by winning or losing, you might find yourself losing quite frequently - winning a race is HARD, especially with the re-emergence of American distance running as of late.
So, many distance runners redefine our success - of course, we strive to win, but we don't let crossing the finish line first solely define us. Rather, we define success through progress (did you improve from the last race?), through execution (did you stick to your race plan from start to finish?), and against ourselves (did you run a personal best?). In this way, we can get excited about an 11th place finish (I was thrilled about my 11th at the Olympic Trials, my best performance at a Trials) - even though I didn't win and I didn't make the Olympic Team, I had a successful day. Using different metrics for success is important for runners of all abilities - it's not just about winning the race, but winning for YOURSELF.
Of course, all that being said, winning a race is awesome. I was reminded of that yesterday when I ran the Cape Cod Half Marathon and broke the tape at the finish. Believe it or not, this was my first time breaking the tape - in 6 years of post-collegiate running, I'd never done it. I'd envisioned it, sure, and visualized it as I was mentally preparing for races, but I often came up just short - 7th at this US Championships, 10th at that competitive race with an international field... So, when I got the W yesterday, I made sure to soak it all in.
It was a beautiful day to run - chilly, and early (race start was 7:30 am), but the views were worth it - the sun stunningly backlit the clouds over the Vineyard Sound, making for an especially lovely scene for running 13.1 miles. The race started with the blast of a cannon, and we were off.
After 5k, I found myself mostly running solo, but I never felt alone out on the course - volunteers were always cheering, and once I'd made the turnaround at halfway, I was cheered on by the rest of the field running in the other direction. I felt like I was running through a cheer tunnel - the encouraging exclamations of "You go girl, yay first woman!" were so uplifting, I think I smiled constantly for a good 2 miles! :-)
As the miles ticked on, I soaked up every joyful moment of leading - I don't often win races. More often than not, I'm chasing personal bests, Olympic Standards, and other significant times. So when you win a race, and set the course record, you sure as heck smile when you're out there!
So thank you, Cape Cod Marathon & Half, for having me out to Falmouth for a fun fall weekend and the opportunity to break the tape - I had a blast! It was especially fun to have my Aunt Mary out on the course cheering - I saw her at 3 different points over 13.1 miles and I always speed up a bit when I hear my named being cheered for ;) After the race, I got to spend the rest of the day celebrating with family - perfect all around!
But now that race weekend has come to a close, it's back to work for me, both on the roads and in school. Midterms beckon and there are many more miles to be run...!