Thursday, November 3, 2011

Your Favorite Race. Not Always Your BEST Time.

I rarely order official race photos.  In fact, I've never really ordered any.  I bought one at the Newport Marathon only because it was right there already printed up after the race and it seemed easy enough to pay $10 for a race souvenir. I never even bought my Boston pictures from 2004 or pictures from my first and fastest marathon in 2003.  The small picture they send you in the mail has always been plenty for me.  But as I looked back over this year and thought of my races, one race came to mind that I might really love to have a few pictures from.  The Sauvie Island Marathon this July.  As I thought more about why I wanted to order some of the photos, I realized that if I had to choose just one race, this would be the race I would say was my best race.  My favorite.  The race that brings the happiest and most satisfied feelings.  When I look at my pictures from this marathon, I feel so much joy.  I can't help but smile. 

This got me thinking about what determines a great race.  It doesn't always mean a personal record, an age group placement, or feeling great the whole time.  So much can go into making a race one that we put on our "FAVORITE RACE" list.  Some of the things we might consider are:
  • Who we ran with.
  • How we felt physically and mentally.
  • Did we meet a goal?
  • Did we execute our race plan?
  • Strong finish.  
  • A special cause that is dear to our hearts.
  • The first time we conquered a certain distance.
  • A race that made us believe in ourselves on a deeper level.

A bit of background information:  I was training for the Newport Marathon in June 2011.  This was my peak race.  I trained very hard as we always do when we train for a marathon.  Unfortunately, as is often the story of training, it doesn't always go as planned.  I experienced over training, small injuries and weeks where I had to take time off.  On race day my plan of a 3:15 marathon ended up being a fight to just finish. I finished in 3:30:17. Some might agree that I took off too fast.  I'd also like to think of it as taking a risk and believing in myself but just not having it in me that day. I think that this is what it takes to make big things happen sometimes..taking risks.  If we save too much at the start of the race, then we might not have it in us to make these big things happen later in the race. However, I do agree that I took off a bit too fast.  It was a learning experience.  As soon as I finished, I vowed never to run another marathon again.  Of course, even before I went to bed that night, I was already planning for my next marathon.  That happened to be The Sauvie Island Marathon four weeks later on July 4th.  My only goal was to run a strong progressive marathon and experience what it feels like to feel strong the second half of a marathon.  I didn't want to PR or run the fastest splits.  I just wanted to be smart and experience this progression thing that people talk about and that I had always been AWFUL at.  Secretly, I also wanted a better qualifying time for Boston.  

My husband had never trained for a marathon but last minute he decided to run the marathon with me (running a marathon untrained is not advised and can cause serious injury).  We ended up running together and finishing strong with a 3:24:25. I even finished with a smile on my face!  It was the best race of my life on so many levels.  Here are just some of them:

  • We started off slow and finished strong. Miles 23,22, 23 and 26 were my fastest miles.
  • I was running with my best friend.
  • My husband and I seemed to feed off of each other perfectly.  We shared fuel, water, and encouraged each other. We even drafted off of each other.
  • I BELIEVED in myself and was hungry for the race. 
  • I felt strong the entire race.  The last few miles felt amazing and although I was definitely feeling it, I was able to rise above it all and zone in.  
  • It wasn't my fastest race but I learned SO much from it and it was the race I had the most control with.  
  • My mind was always in the game.  
  • Mile 25 I experienced a pretty powerful emotional moment that made me feel like my dad was there.  This was one the most memorable parts and it was the hardest mile of my entire race.  After this experience in mile 25, I felt so strong for mile 26 and ended up finishing at a 6:49 pace. 
  • The weather was a perfect temperature with such a beautiful blue sky and Oregon country to run through.  
  • This race gave me a new level of confidence that is now feeding my excited for Boston Training to begin.  
  • It was my first time racing with music and a water belt...this was nice.  
  • I met ALL MY GOALS:  start slow, finish strong, keep a great form, fuel appropriately, take in enough water.     

So, this will be a time when I purchase some race photos.  Not only was it my favorite race on so many levels, it was my husband's very first marathon.  We did it together and learned a lot about how well we work together.  It was one of the best memories we have as a couple.  Since I will be purchasing some of these photos, I don't feel so bad about using these to share on my blog.  You can see the joy in my face.  Both of us.  

Mile 26.  I've got this!
Smiling at mile 26...can't say that I've done that before. I know that I will have to put myself in some pain in my next marathon if I'm going to make bigger time goals happen but if I can finish 26.2 in 3:24 smiling then this gives me the confidence that I have what it takes to dig deep and reach those goals of mine.  
In the zone together.  Note:  I will be making it a goal to keep more weight on this time around.  Eating LOTS more good food.  I got way too skinny last time.  
Second half of the race.  Feeling strong and happy. 
Good friend Nicole took this one at the finish line.  One of my favorite pictures.  Sweaty and Satisfied!  And you can see the GU all over my arm.  Ha!  LOVED THIS RACE!!

Just writing about this marathon makes me feel so SUPER CHARGED and Happy to be close to beginning Boston Training!  

Your turn!  Tell me what your favorite race memory is.  What's the race that comes to mind when you close your eyes and think about your favorite race?  And why is it your favorite??  

I really do want to know about your favorite race so please share.  Your memorable race experiences are charging for me to read about...they make me even more excited about racing again!  



  1. My very favorite race was the Schyulkill Navy Turkey Trot. I ran it twice or maybe three times. Loved it each time. It's a 5.5 mile (or so) cross-country race on Thanksgiving and you have to have competed in a Schyulkill Navy pretty much all rowers were running in the thing. I loved cutting corners and running across lawns and around statues and dashing through the botanical garden then climbing up a big-ass hill, circling around a historic mansion at the halfway and heading back to Boathouse Row and the finish line. A total rush. Miss it :)

  2. I LOVE THIS. reading why this was your favorite race brought a serious smile to my face! how awesome. everything you described...all those things are so meaningful. i find that when i obsess...yell at myself...focus so much on a time that i end up hating the race later. when i get to a point where i just want to have fun, be grateful for the friends running with me and be grateful that I am able to be out there running...those are my favorite races. the halloween race this past weekend will always be one of my favorites because it is just so fun. it brings out the joy of the holiday and the passion for running in hard not to get caught up in that. but i am also counting down the days till i get to run with my brother for his first half and my sister for her first full in april 2012. its going to be so awesome! a lifetime memory!

  3. Great purchase!! The memories will be with you always, but looking at pictures brings it home.

    I haven't bought official race photos before- usually I have someone there to take photos and they turn out better :)

    Best race memory ---too hard to choose! I was really charged up for the half marathon a year ago, but I am waiting for a chance to race with one of my boys.

  4. My favorite race was a half this summer. Because I ran it with my running buddy. And it certainly wasn't a PR. She had just finished reading a book about the discovery of the small pox vaccine. And she is better than books on tape. I know the whole history now. It was a fast course, weather was great, and I was home in time to make the family breakfast...wait a minute. Why is that positive? Well, sometimes we feel so guilty being gone on weekend mornings. Although they really should have made me breakfast!

    I am a bit jealous over you having your fav race with your hubby! That is awesome. My better half doesn't run. I'm glad you have the photos...their awesome.

  5. My favorite race of the year is the Girlfriend's Half Marathon, in Vancouver WA. This year was my third year, and each year has been so very different and meant so much. In 2009, I was plagued with injury. I knew I wouldn't be able to run the whole thing (my very first half marathon!), but I wanted to experience the race. So I went with my wonderful hubby and two kiddos, and ran until I hit mile 8, and my ITBand just gave out. I walked the rest, and was just happy to finish. But I now had unfinished business. And my son was upset when he saw all the other kids with signs and he didn't have one. I told him there would be a next year. In 2010, I trained right, and brought along a few of my friends. And my son had signs. Glitter signs! :-) I knew I could run the whole thing, and that was my only goal. I exceeded my own expectations of myself, and finished with a respectable 2:10. And alongside a Girlfriend, which made it even better! I couldn't wait to do it again, and I hadn't even finished sweating! In 2011, I convinced not just a few, but 18 of my friends in my Stroller Strides group to sign up for this race! They had heard me talk so much about it, that it was easy to convince them. Many of them had never run a half marathon before, in fact many of them didn't even consider themselves runners! :-) We formed a training group, and met on weekends with different pace groups. Some had serious time goals, some just wanted to say they did it. I just wanted to be there with all my Girlfriends! I was kindof burnt out from running by the time Girlfriends got here (H2C and at least a race a month for the entire year will do that), so I didn't really train too hard for it. Soaking in the atmosphere, feeding on the adrenaline of my friends, I once again surprised myself by ALMOST beating my time from last year! If I hadn't had to stop in the bathrooms once, I would have. ;-) But the best part was seeing how excited and happy all of my Girlfriends were and how supportive we all were of each other. Many are already talking about next year, most are already signed up for Shamrock, some are doing the Rock n Roll half with me! In 2012, I will run Girlfriend's with my best Girlfriend... my sister. :-) Thanks for a wonderful blog, and an opportunity to look back on such great memories. ~Cyndie

  6. oh, I am loving all these stories as they come in! Thank you! Cyndie, I hope I get to meet you next Girlfriends Half! I loved this much fabulous energy and support!! You have such an inspiring and energizing story. Your girlfriends and sister are lucky to have you in their life!

  7. my favortie is easy nothing comes close to it. it is La Descente Royale. It is a 10k. I ran it in June with one of my best friend and it is in my hometown. My parents were there, it is the only time they have seen me run. It was fantastic. I PR that day but it is not what I remember most about that race. I did buy 2 pics from the race. I hope I will get to do it again!

  8. What a great post Amanda. Those race photos and the memories to go along with them are priceless. I don't blame you for actually wanting to buy your pics. Kudos to your hubby for running with you too! I wished that mine ran, but he hates running and he really doesn't like running with me. We ran one race together and I am sure it was both the first and the last and it was only a 5K, haha. I guess that I talk too much and push him more than he would like to be pushed (he did thank me later for the PR).

    I would have to say that my favorite race to date is Boston. It obviously wasn't the best race of my life, but it was about the experience. I remember that I hurt so bad and I wanted to quit, but knew if I quit I wasn't going to be able to wear the finisher's jacket that cost a small fortune...and I wanted my medal!!!It was a fun weekend because my husband was there along with my best friend who was also celebrating her birthday on marathon day. I met really cool people at both our hotel and in the athlete's village that I have still kept in contact with through FB. My husband was out on the course on race day and I remember when I saw him at mile 21 I just burst into tears because I hurt so bad (the tears made for awesome race pics). BUT, I earned my spot there and I finished and I will be back. I have some unfinished business. :-)

  9. Oh, I LOVE this! I just ran my first marathon last month...The Wineglass Marathon...and it was my favorite run ever! Not just because it was my first marathon, but because of the sense of accomplishment & pure amazement that I was really doing it! I have always been on the sidelines. I have carted infants & toddlers & signs along a racecourse & cheered on my husband many many times and never did I think I'd be on the other side. So running (even in the cold rain) & seeing my husband & younger son cheering me on along the course & then seeing my older son at the finish line waiting for me with my medal & a hug was the best thing ever! This weekend 3 out of 4 of us will run a half....I am incredibly excited for next year when our youngest should have enough mileage in him to make it a true family run :). ~ Tracy

  10. OH, I love this post!!!

    My favorite race was my first half ironman that I raced with my husband. It was such a big undertaking for me and took over seven hours! I had IT issues and struggled a bit on the bike, but her was supportive and sweet when I told him that I was thinking about quitting before the run because I didn’t think I would even be able to walk. We pulled into T2 where I decided I would at least get to mile two of the half marathon so I could tell my parents that I was dropping out. But by the time I got to mile two I was flying high. I don’t know what happened but I felt great loved every second of the run. We smiled, high fived people and told anyone we could that it was our fifth anniversary. I finished not caring about our time but how awesome it felt to cross the finish line with the love of my life. I honestly can’t think of a better way to celebrate our anniversary so we will do it again next year with a full ironman.

  11. I love your marathon story. I often start out like you did: too fast. My next marathon I plan on the progressive approach too. Even if I lose a minute or two, it will feel better to finish strong. I don't think I've had my favorite race yet. Like the one where I will BQ perhaps.

    I guess the race I would choose to tell you about is my home town marathon last year. Before that I had been plateaued for several years, and even had slowed down a bit from my PR a couple years earlier. Determined to train harder, I worked my butt off. I negative split the second half beating my previous time by 20 minutes and my PR by 10 minutes.

  12. That was so sweet. I love that you and your husband run together. That is a real gift and blessing.

    My favorite race was my first triathlon. Even though I got a flat tire it was a really special race. I did it with friends, it made me learn to swim, I (kinda) conquered my fear of open water swimming, and I fell in love with triathlons and racing in general.

  13. I have two stand-out races. My first was Melbourne half three years ago when I ran way beyond what I thought I could ever achieve. I was hoping for 1:45 and ran a 1:42. My other stand-out race was Sydney last year running with Josh, who'd had a tough year, and i was coming back from over-training syndrome. I got to run the first 10k with my boy and continued to feel strong through the rest of the race.

  14. That is so great you and your husband run together - that's great bonding.

    My favorite race ever was the Oshkosh Half Marathon this year... it was such a ridiculous situation - sleet, snow, wind, flooded and muddy trails... and it really just struck me that running should be FUN and I don't have to be so serious about it. I wrote all about it if you're interested!

  15. I never buy race photos, I am not a photo album person, but do love the digital prints. You look very strong in those pics, I don't think you look too thin at all!

    My favorite races are always those where I run well and PR:) I have not year learned how to enjoy races that are not PRs. Let me know if you figure it out:)

  16. Ooh! I remember this day and talking to you after and being SO excited for you! I also somehow remember humming "Shiny happy people holding hands" for the rest of the day-ha ha!!

    Favorite race? So tough to narrow down. Memorable races would be my first 5K, my first HM which I ran harder than I believe I've ever run to date, my first marathon, and of course Boston would have to be at the top of the list. My favorite race is the marathon and Boston has my PR. One of my greatest race feelings I know came in that race around mile 25. I looked at my watch and knew I would have to absolutely collapse to not meet my goal. Really proud of myself for that whole winter of training, for the way I executed the race.....Let's hope 2012 brings as many wonderful memories!!

  17. My favorite race will Always be Boston. It is my hometown marathon. I have ran PRs, run my worst marathon and run it 11 weeks after my baby arrived! it is just a part of who I am as a runner.

    But, ran the Eiffel Tower to Versailles race in France while there for work, and that was my most surreal running experience!

  18. What a great post! I totally agree. A recent favorite race of mine would have to be the Half Marathon I ran seven weeks after my last baby was born. I knew I wasn't going to PR or anything but I enjoyed every second of it. For starters, it was the most "alone" time I had had in 7 weeks since giving birth. Secondly, I had missed racing SO MUCH throughout my pregnancy and at this point it had been almost a year since my last race. I was thankful to have been able to run during my pregnancy and I was also thankful that my recovery was going well enough that I was even considering running in a Half Marathon so soon. I remember a feeling of pure happiness as I ran my last mile. It just felt so good to be back... :-)

  19. i love the pictures of ya'll running together! how fun!!! i can't wait to do a marathon with my husband one day (fingers crossed for 2012); my favorite race was not my best either - it was the country music half marathon here in nashville. it was the first race i did with 30+ thousand people, the crowds were amazing.. and the half course was perfect for highlighting all these great areas of downtown nashville. made me proud of my city.

  20. far my favorite race was this past half marathon. Didn't PR, but I felt so happy to be running....that happens after an injury and I ran negative splits. I finished with my last mile the fastest at 6:42, which felt GREAT to do and I was just overall happy to be there. it was a very satisfied feeling I had afterward. Didn't for one second get down on myself. Just enjoyed it and loved it! I think I should put no pressure on myself for all my races and I would enjoy them more:):)I am feeling EXTREMELY Stoked for Boston Training! I can't WAIT!

  21. I love it! I think races like those where everything just comes together make all the training and hardship so worth it and energize us to conquer more in life.
    My favorite race was the Grand Rapids marathon. It was my 2nd. The first was the very hot and cancelled Chicago 2007. I vowed never to do another but after a couple of days knew I had to. It ended up being the perfect day where the planets aligned. There was no wall, the BQ and PR that still stands today happened and it made me realize I'd been setting the 'bar in life' too low. It inspired me to take risks and face challenges head on. Totally life changing.

  22. Love this post!
    My favorite race was probably my 2nd marathon (3 weeks after my first) this past June. I learned so much from the first, felt great and improved my time.
    I also loved the Foot Traffic Flat half this year. I had only done races that included downhill, so I was scared of FLAT... but I improved my half time by 5 minutes and realized how much easier flat is on your body during a race! Plus, I got to run it with my sister-in-law... and my mom was there to see me in a race for the first time!

  23. That is a GREAT story and what an awesome experience to have shared with your hubby.

    I think my favourite race ever was actually my slowest marathon this year - but a big PR at the time. I ran the first half very comfortably at my long run pace (2 hours) and picked it up to my goal (BQ) pace for the second half. I have never felt so strong through a marathon finish line and it gave me all the confidence I needed to finish out the cycle and go get that BQ (which I did the following month).

  24. Thanks so much for sharing this story. Your children will have such a special picture of their parents to treasure. Very cool.
    I feel so inspired. I'm just really getting back into running and have not run but a handful of races, but I've been contemplating signing up for my first marathon and this may just be the boost I need to do it! I am not a fast runner but this would be just a huge accomplishment for me. Thanks again for your post.

  25. Order those race photos! I got goosebumps and a huge smile reading your bulleted points on why that was your favorite race. Especially your mile 25. We all need a race like that every once in a while. And just reading about yours fuels us all to keep it up! It's the races like that that likely keep us all marathoning, not the races with the "best (PR) times." For me, my "Best (PR)time" race ended with me taking a sharp right into the med tent. :) And the last several miles were a pain fest that I'm trying to forget. My favorite races are the relaxed variety with friends and meeting people from all over the country, do this crazy marathon thing we all love. Very cool and worth the expenditure for the pix. Thanks for sharing!

  26. Such a great post Amanda! I completely agree about the best race having nothing to do with time or pace but rather overall feeling. I have so many favorites but if I had to pick just one it would be my second marathon. I think I smiled the entire race and crossing the finish line was so euphoric. Aww this memory is making me happy. Thanks for inspiring me to share. :)

  27. Wonderful post, I think I just got a tear in my eye when you were talking about the part of the race where you could feel the presence of your father!

    I don't yet have a favorite race moment yet, I am still working on creating those memories. Hopefully at some point during my marathon on nov 12th I'll be able to have some moments that I'm proud of...

  28. My favorite race will be the next one that I run without feeling this plantar fasciitis! I will be so much more grateful for the gift of running when I return!

    But, until then, I think my favorite race to date was the Race for the Roses in 2010. It was the first time I had ever trained for a specific time goal and, more importantly, pubically stated that goal. This was huge for me as prior to this I had always been plagued with the "what if I say I want to run X:XX time and I don't do it?" It was a milestone for me to put it out there....oh, and I crushed my goal as well, so that makes it even better! ;)

  29. I'm new to your blog. I have a question at the end of this post about training. Where do you get your training schedule and are there tweaks in the training schedule that you found helpful? I ran my first marathon (being a nonathlete) in 2010 and followed Hal Higdon's. I ran the entire time (which was my goal). Thank you for your story.

  30. Ramblin' On, I can't see an e-mail or blog associated with your link so I'm replying here. :) I get my schedule from a book...just like the Higdon plan, there are various other plans from different coaches that are just a bit different based on what your needs/wants are as athlete. I'm currently reading two books...Jack Daniel's Running Formula and Run Faster by Brad Hudson. I think I'm going to go with a Hudson plan but modify it a bit to fit my own tweaks. I'm pretty sure you can get plans online that are more tailored to your needs. :) Hope that answers your question. Great to hear from you.

    So loving all of these stories and hope to get back to each one of you in the next day or two.

  31. Great post and great question!

    I just asked my husband what his favorite race was...and he said the same one I was thinking! Bay to Breakers 2004! It's one of only two races we've run together (and we agreed the other one, a little hometown chestnut called the XC Xtreme) is our second favorite. In Bay to Breakers, we ran the whole way together. We laughed at the centipedes and the naked people. We crested the talked-of Hayes St. Hill and agreed it was "nothin'". We ran toward the ocean together at the end and felt fast and strong and refreshed. It was awesome! Someday we'll do it again.

    Loved your memory with your husband!

  32. Hmm I don't have a favorite race as of yet. When I get one I'll let you know. :)

  33. No doubt reading this made me think of my first marathon. It was over 80 degrees. It was hot, miserable, but I finished and I wanted more. But then I got pregnant and took time off to figure life out. I'm currently training for my second marathon.

  34. oh my goodness, LOVED this race recap! Although my first half will be in Jan and I've obviously never conquered the 26.2, I found motivation through your words and experiences. I must say I did get pretty emotional during a duathlon that I did a few years ago...I cried the entire 5K at the end! I was a mess, but I still remember feeling like I had done something remarkable! LOVE YOUR BLOG :)

  35. Hi Amanda, it's so nice to meet new blog friends! Thank you for your sweet comments on my last post.
    My favourite race was my first and only (so far) half marathon at the Gold Coast early this year. I dedicated myself to the training of it, and I proved something to myself when I crossed that finish line. I really can do everything that I put my mind to, if I apply myself.
    Thank you for a wonderful reminder, and you and your husband really do look like you had a great time!

  36. I love this post, it gets me all dreamy eyed that my hubby might run with me some time. My favorite race I think was my first half with two of my most favorite people. We stuck together through potty breaks and injury and inhaled oreo's at the finish.

  37. when people ask me this i always say disney (goofy) and nyc. i loved running both races at disney, pr-ing in the half didn't hurt, and i had so much fun running the full with my best friend and stopping for pictures with all the characters! nyc is a fav b/c it's my marathon pr, but the disney marathon also makes the cut because it was just such a great day - great memory.

  38. I can definitely see why that marathon ranks above all others for you. It appears everything aligned on that one. Mine's the Falmouth Road Race in Cape Cod. If you loved running the Boston Marathon, you'd love this one too. Same sort of feel, only with beautiful surroundings every step of the way.

  39. Other than my first race back from injury last year where I had a great time at Eugene...My favorite races have always been the ones I've done with my dad and brother. Nothing is better than running with those you love.

  40. Looking back, I now realize that my favorite race to date was my first half marathon. It was the Pasadena half marathon that I completed on May 2011. It was pouring rain for the first half of the race, and I ran it mostly on my own,but I started slow and finished strong. It also has turned out to me my PR for half marathons this year-- 1:53. I was on such a high after I finished that I signed up for 2 more half marathons the week after.