Sunday, November 19, 2017

Nobody Cares About Your Marathon Time

Other people don't care about your race times. And that's a good thing.

They may be interested in how you do. And they may even track you during a marathon! And if you have a coach, he/she is likely personally invested in your performance. But your race time is not going to change the lives of other people. Other runners care about their races times. Any interest
they have in your race time is just that-- an interest. And a fleeting one, as they will likely not be focused on your race time the next day.

But what about the elite athletes who get press coverage? Or what about the runners who have tens of thousands of social media followers? People care about those race times, right? Not really. It's cool to scroll through the Instagram feed and see how people's races went. And it may be worthy of a conversation or two. But that's about the extent of most people's caring. I have nearly 10,000 followers on Instagram, and I don't think any of them lost sleep over my Indianapolis time. While I received an overwhelming amount of support from the running community, I know that my failure to meet my goal isn't going to change anything in their lives. And that's such a relief! Phew.

I'll caveat all of this with the statement that some people will judge you. In fact, people are probably judging you all the time for lots of things. And admit it-- you sometimes judge other people too. It's human nature to judge and to make comparisons. You can't stop people from judging you, especially if you put yourself out there. What you can stop is how you let those judgments effect you. Are you going to make decisions based on how you might be perceived? Or are you going to make decisions based on what is truly right for you. Do you value yourself based on other people's perceptions? Or do you value yourself based on your own standards?

It's easy to understand this concept intellectually. Most people know that they shouldn't care about what other people think of them. For me, the real breakthrough came when I actually felt it.

Back in the summer of 2013, I was debating whether or not to run the Chicago marathon. I had been injured for five weeks, so I was deciding between doing it as a fun run, or just bagging the whole thing. Was I going to embarrass myself yet again with another relatively slow time? Would everyone think I was crazy for considering myself to be a BQ-caliber runner? But at that moment, I was able to "catch" myself and turn those thoughts in the other direction.I realized that I was making this decision primarily based on how other people (my running friends and teammates) would perceive my time.

And that's what caused the breakthrough to happen. I realized that my time was important to me, but it was really just a small point of interest to my friends. If I ran a slow time, they might think, "oh, Elizabeth didn't do all that well," but then they would go about the rest of their day, focused on other things. And if they thought "oh, Elizabeth didn't do all that well," would it impact my life? NO. Not one bit. Let them think it! Let them think whatever they want about me because it's not going to change the decisions I make, or how I feel about my running.

Nobody cares how crappy I look here!
I've often been asked what the single biggest "a-ha" moment was in my journey to overcome race anxiety. It was this realization, which felt like like a heavy weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. It made me feel free to do whatever I wanted with my running. I was no longer afraid to run a slow time because of what other people might think. And my anxiety levels plummeted.

The stakes were now lower on race day. Every race became about my individual goals and my own unique journey. I was no longer trying to prove anything to anyone. And while I still cared about my race times, I wasn't worried about embarrassing myself if I ran slower than expected.

Nobody cares about your race time. Nobody else has put in the work like you have, and nobody else has to live with the result. After all, how much do you really care about other people's times, relative to how much you care about your own time? You probably don't lose sleep over other people's running.

Learning to accept a missed goal is a skill in and of itself, but when you are ALSO worried about other people's judgments, acceptance is nearly impossible.

How does all of this relate to the marathon I ran two weeks ago?

  • I went into the race feeling relaxed, so I don't think that my bonk was the result of race anxiety.
  • When I started to struggle, I wasn't worried that the people tracking me would see I had slowed down; I was focused on trying to push through.
  • After the race was over, I was wasn't afraid to share my experience with other runners on social media and my blog.
  • I've spent the past two weeks focused on recovering and planning out my spring season-- not trying to justify what happened to anyone.
  • I'm not looking at Boston (my next marathon) as a redemption race to prove to the world that I can, in fact, run a fast marathon. It's simply my next marathon. 

It's easy to feel pressured on race day, particularly if you are active in the running community. But other people's judgments should be the least of your concerns. Because those people simply don't care as much as you may think.


  1. Thank goodness someone finally said it lol...well said!

  2. So true. I recently did a half-Ironman, and while I actually did finish, my time is officially considered a DNF because I didn't make the time cutoff. Literally no one cares, and now all my friends and family think I'm some kind of badass. It's honestly a little embarrassing, because I know I didn't actually do well...

  3. I shall take a different perspective that some do care about how you fare in performance as in fact we followers take the time to read your posts as well as comment on them. We respond with kudos and compliments when the race goes well or according to plan, and we emapathize with you when race doesn't go as you had trained for that goal FT. So keep that in mind. In a sense, all runners run the race against their self. It is the challenge we seek and the FT, PR or the BQT simply the antelope we chase! And I will keep saying and reminding you of that Arthur Ashe quote (until I hear you adopting it yourself)..."Start where you are, bring what you have, do what you can." And despite your tendency to delve into the details and the analysis....what you end up posting...could be simply viewed in the context of Ashe's quote I like to fall-back to so often. One day at a foot in front of the other. Good subject Zebra!

    1. I agree. I think people can take interest, and care about you as a PERSON, but not fixated on the exact time. If I ran a 3:33 vs. a 3:43, it would really make no difference in your life, and your opinion of me wouldn't change. At least I hope not!

  4. This is so interesting to me--as someone who was raised to really care about what other people think, I've spent a lifetime trying to not worry about what people think. When I ran my first, disastrous Chicago Marathon, I didn't even want to tell anyone I ran it--I was that ashamed of my finish time. Now I'm struggling with my self-image as a runner who has really slowed down and who has to use run/walk intervals to finish a run. Nobody cares, I get that, but I sure do! I need to get over myself.

    Maybe people don't care about my finish times, but they sure as heck want to know about them.

    1. Yes, I agree people want to know. It's an exciting sport and people are interested. But if you ran a "slow for you time" do you think your followers and supporters would change their opinion of you? And if so, would that really bother you?

  5. You know... I disagree. I feel like it's easy to say no one cares, but we do care. I wanted you to BQ at that marathon and meet your goals. The same way that I want my friends who are trying to BQ at Kiawah to BQ there. So yes, I do care about others times in the sense that I hope they run the times they have trained for and are capable of.

    I think the point is, no one bases a runner or person's WORTH on a race time. Heck, you can't always base the success of a training cycle on a race time (what if the race has heat or snow or bad weather? what if the athlete just has a bad day?).

    Do I care about your marathon time? Well, if I care about YOU and know that it matters and means a lot to you, then yes. I guess I do care.

    1. I think there is a difference between caring about someone as a person and fixating on their exact time. For example, you cared about my Indy time because you've been following my training and supporting me. But the fact that I ran a 3:43 instead of a 3:17 doesn't change your opinion of me. At least I hope not! :-)

    2. Definitely not! Heck, you could run a 5 hour marathon and I'd still admire and respect you as a runner. I have friends who run that time and I respect them- they get out there and run a marathon and that takes guts.

      Nobody fixates on our times. I do believe some runners take it too far thinking that others do. I know people who have DNFed races (15K and half marathons) when they were not injured or ill, simply because they did not want that race time "on their record". What is this- your elementary school "permanent record"? It's just a race, everyone has good days and bad ones.

  6. Elizabeth, I've been meaning to comment on this very excellent post for a while. You said this so well and, IMHO, this is right on the money. No, no one cares. They are supportive but the time I run is of no substantive interest. Shoot, my adult kids don't care about my running times. Do I enjoy the race? Am I hurt? That's something of interest. But the results? Nope, don't kid yourself. Essential, fundamental understanding of running.

    I'm still sorry I missed you in Indy! And, isn't it equally fascinating how the exact same race went so marvelously for me and so lousy for you? That's another metaphor, eh?

    Look forward to following your Boston prep, as I'll be doing the same thing, one year later.

    Hope you have a terrific 2018, Elizabeth. My best to your hubby as well!!