Sunday, November 4, 2012

Investment Model Running

One of the common themes I am hearing from the various articles on the NYC Marathon cancellation is that runners have made a huge investment in their training. The word "investment" is interesting to me because I've been working hard to move away from "investment model" running.

Investment model running is the attitude that you put "x" amount of time and effort into training to receive "y" result on race day. I've held this attitude for years and years. In fact, ever since I started racing back in 2005. It's just always seemed logical to me. To set a PR or run a specific time, you need to invest the time and hard work. And on race day, it will all pay off.

But this notion of the race somehow "paying you back" actually is not all that logical when you really think about it. And it does a disservice to all your hard work. A race result speaks to how you performed on one day in one set of conditions. I'm not going to say race results aren't important-- they are very important. However, if you're training with the idea that "this will all pay off" then you risk huge disappointment if, say, the race gets canceled, and more importantly you're also missing out on the joy and satisfaction that comes with simply doing the training.

For years I've been going into races with the mindset that the race was going to pay me back. Oftentimes it didn't, and I was crushed. Although I have always gotten a great deal of satisfaction from my training, it was always secondary to the end result. "I trained hard and enjoyed my training BUT I bonked at the marathon." And the second part of that sentence was really where all my emotion was focused. No amount of telling myself that I worked hard and trained hard would make me feel better about performing poorly at a marathon.

Investment model running simply isn't effective or realistic. It can often lead to disappointment and you miss out on the stuff that truly matters in terms of your athleticism.

Keeping this in mind, I've developed some goals for the Richmond Half Marathon next weekend. What do I want to get out of this race if it's not payback for my training/comeback over the last 5 weeks? I think what I really want to do in Richmond is demonstrate that I can effectively do some of the mental stuff I've been working on. Although my performance anxiety issues only come with marathons and not half marathons, I want to go into all races with the same attitude-- no matter what the distance or the priority level.

1. Do not compare myself to others. This will be very challenging to me, especially since Richmond was supposed to be my fall marathon this year. I have a lot of friends/teammates running this race (including Greg!) so it would be very easy to fall into negative thinking about how they get to run the full marathon and set PRs-- but I was stuck with mono all summer.

I was able to stay positive at the Philadelphia half marathon earlier this fall (where a bunch of my teammates ran, but I wasn't able to), so I am going to remember that and do the same thing here. The "level of difficulty" has increased a notch because now I actually will have a half marathon time that I could potentially obsess over and compare with. But I have to remind myself that my mindset will be exactly as it was in Philly. No comparing.  Comparing to others will not only make me feel bad about myself, but it's also completely illogical. I don't know anyone else who got stuck with mono all summer, so why would I compare to them?  However, I fully plan on comparing to my recent half marathon, and looking at the progress I've made physically since I started training on October 1.

2. Focus on the present. The race starts on Saturday morning, and ends 13.1 miles later. The night before the race, I will be enjoying dinner with Greg and my teammates. During that dinner, I will not be thinking about my race performance. Talking about the race in terms of the course, the logistics, etc, is all good. But I want to be present with my teammates and not off in my own mind, worrying about the race.

When I'm done racing, I will do a quick review of it in my head and make some mental notes. Afterwards, I will be focused on cheering for Greg and the other marathoners. When Greg finishes the marathon, I will be focused on supporting him. We'll of course exchange stories of how it went, but my goal here is to not obsess over my performance. When I get home, I will write my race recap blog and do an official "review" in the style of what went well, what worked, what I learned, etc. And then, it's time to focus on celebrating my birthday!  My birthday is on Sunday, but the festivities will begin Saturday night.

3. Focus on my race strategy and execution. Here are the key areas where I want to be focused on immediately before and during the race:

2008 Richmond Half Marathon finish
  • Run the first 5K relaxed, and slower than half marathon pace.
  • Stay physically relaxed, don't tense up
  • Focus on form, especially on the hills-- remember what coach told you during hill training
  • Gels at mile 4 and 9
  • Looking at the Garmin once in awhile is fine, but stay focused on actually running!
  • You love this race-- be sure to enjoy the crowd support!
  • Stay mentally strong during the last 4 miles. You can do this! Don't back off.
  • Really kick it hard on that final downhill mile  
All that being said, I do have a target range of where I'd like to be in terms of time. This will guide my pacing during the first 5K and ensure that I don't go out too fast. 

These three goals will be far more challenging for me than attaining any particular race time. And I love a challenge! The good thing is that they are all within my grasp and control, so there is no reason why I can't achieve them.

Moving away from investment model running feels liberating, but it's not an overnight shift. To be completely honest, it's unfamiliar territory and scary at times. I've always clung so tightly to my race times to validate my training. The more I set these types of goals, and demonstrate that I can achieve them, the more natural it will become. 


  1. This is a great post!

    Look forward to seeing you Friday night and cheering you on Saturday! :)

  2. I totally love your theory of investment model running, so smart! It's really true, expecting results like that seem to set us up for disappointment. I'll be sending great race vibes your way next weekend. Good luck!!!

  3. I love EVERYTHING about this post. So, so sooooooooo true about "investment" running. This is where I set myself up for disappointment as well. Thank you for putting it into words!
    Good luck next weekend!

  4. Have a great race.

    And yes, the training should be it's own reward. A race isn't somehting that you deserve or don't. It's a mystery present, and sometimes you get diamonds, sometimes coal.

  5. Good luck!

    Love this post. Will have to read it once in a while.