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If - What - Then | 1/2 Marathon World Championships 2023

If - What - Then | 1/2 Marathon World Championships 2023

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If – What - Then

It’s been 9 weeks since I got back from Europe. I’ve been thinking of what to write. Ideas seem to have come and gone. Feelings have gone around and around. Thoughts too, some good some bad. That’s part of it, right? I said that to Matt a few days after racing. “This come down is going to suck”.

 You know I think sometimes we can lull ourselves into this false sense of security.

What I mean by that is we can prepare so exceptionally well that we expect it to come easy. Like writing an excellent speech and just thinking that public speaking will come easy.

You think to yourself, I’ve run 180 kilometers a week and not missed a session. Been sleeping in an altitude tent for 9 hours a night and working a little less. I am in great shape, I’ve recovered well and I’m coming off of PB shape.

I’m not saying that’s the attitude I went in with. Because I can assure you. Running 14:45 for the first 5km of a ½ Marathon ensures it is not going to be easy. But I had thought I’d like to be a little more comfortable.

I’ve never really been in that racing position. Not going to win, not going to lose, not going to run a PB, but having to fight for every position. I’d prepared for it, but not for how mentally deep I had to dig to not toss the towel in.

A wise man sat across the table in 2018 before I ran the Christchurch Marathon. He said, “When you tick through certain distance spots in a race, like 5k or 10k, and you see the best split you’ve ever had through those checkpoints. Remember you are having the best day of your life”. For 15km I was having the best day of my life in a Half Marathon.

Creating effort isn’t easy. It’s this sort of inner argument of physical self-preservation, ego, and self-talk. Effort is easy when you think you might win or run a PB. It’s worth it, your mind doesn’t take much convincing. But when you find yourself in the situation, I found myself in it was confronting.

We used to talk about it in my football playing days. If this happens, then what? A plan inside of the plan. That’s not a goal. Goals are the big shiny things at the end or the start or whatever you might score yourself out of 10 on when you finish.

The IF-WHAT-THEN is your ability to take past experiences, learnings, emotions, feelings and understandings and apply them to the situation under pressure and fatigue.

I am super competitive. In sports, in business, in almost everything. Those closest to me know that. 

I found myself 10km into the race, I’d run 30:07 through that marker. Having the best day of my life. But also knowing I am working way outside the lines. But also not slowing down, just thinking to myself keep going. Give yourself an opportunity and deliver yourself well to 16k.

Matt and I had talked about 2 goals.

  1. If I finished around 60th, that would be a great result. To finish around there, I would be finishing with guys nearly a minute faster on paper.
  2. Be the second Kiwi home.

 The wheels started to fall off about the 40-minute mark, and physiologically that is about right. When you are talking about fine margins. To run as fast as you ever have you must have controlled the things you can and then hope enough of the others fall into place.

 I’m thinking, “damn I am in trouble, my lungs are burning, there is concrete in my thighs and my arms feel heavy. The wind is blowing, and I swear this road feels uphill”.

Another wise man once said, “It is easy to run well when it’s feeling easy, but can you find a way to run well when it feels hard. That’s the question”.

Then I go back to my IF-WHAT-THEN and I hope that this resonates for people.

My current output I know I can’t keep this up for another 9k. My ankle is sore, my chest hurts a bit, mouth is dry and I've dropped my gel. The group I was with has blown apart. A few in front and a few behind. 

So, adjust my finish line. I know I can keep this up for another kilometer. Internally I made a deal with myself. My current finish line was not 9k away anymore. It was the next guy down the road. Find the next guy and make that the race.

There it was, don’t let anyone pass me and run the next guy down.

Over the last 9 kilometers,’ I picked off 11 guys and no one passed me. I finished 64th (33 places above my ranking). There was no PB, but a resolute last 10 minutes meant I finished within 18 seconds of it.

I’ll be honest, finishing was almost a relief. I was tired, missed my family, and running 3 hard half-marathons in 6 months had taken its toll on my body.

I was proud that 32-year-old me had delivered on the promise 18-year-old me had made to myself.

I was grateful to Katy who had been a full-time single parent for 3 weeks. (more like 12 with all the training)

I was grateful for the team in the store who kept things moving along without missing a beat.

I was grateful for the messages I got in the days leading up to and after the race from friends and the community.

 But I was most proud I ran as hard as I could, for as long as I could. Effort can only be measured truly by the one exerting it. I can honestly say I could not have run any harder.

That is something I will live with forever.

Running is a drug, we push ourselves to individual limits in the pursuit of self-empowerment and self-understanding. To see how far, how fast, and how disciplined we can be.

I run because it makes me a better me, I run because it gives a day purpose, I run because it brings people together, and I run because it gives me and others enjoyment.

Thank you to those of you that got me there, you know who you are. I’ll be forever grateful for the community of people who lift me, guide me, and encourage me.

 OB

 

 

 

 

 

    4 comments

    Great writing, how you talk about ‘creating effort’ really strikes a chord and how you are the only one who knows if you achieved it. Hearing it like that makes sense. Awesome mahi.

    Brooke

    Awesome piece Oska. I have read it 3 times. I got something each time. Great to see/hear/feel what you went through. Having been given a reputation as a “reflective” teacher. I always take note when someone reflects over something as huge as something like a Half Marathon and what it takes to complete successfully. You do it well. Your flat out honesty comes to the fore and I fully understand that post race comedown. Really only suffered it when I was in College in the US. Now a long time ago but learned to come to terms with it as you have …. Writing blogs like this is massively helpful. Love your work. Keep it rollin’ out.

    KIm Stevenson

    Thanks for letting us into the mind of a local elite athlete. That’s an inspiring yet realistic personal narrative that all athletes, from novices to champions, can draw motivation and comprehension from. I’m looking forward to reading next years blog about what it feels like to be one of the top 50 fastest half marathoners on the planet.

    Mike Miller

    9km is such a long time to be redlining. Holding it together to just miss out on a PB and improve that many places is outstanding.

    The post-race come down, even for us sloggers, is real and probably not talked about enough.

    Steve
    Leave your thought here

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