The Casual Runner

Get Started: Be Honest

Previously the Casual Runner Team brought you our checklist of the Top 10 Things You Need to Know to Become a Casual Runner. Today Mike brings you more tips to help you get started on your own Casual Running journey.

Something odd happened when I ran the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon: during the first 10k of the race my running buddy, Joe, and I saw a woman cut the course short. In the middle of Rock Creek Park, there is a 180-degree turn on an out-and-back portion of the course which is clearly marked, but this woman inexplicably decided to turn around about 20 yards short of the finish. We were flabbergasted. After all, why would anyone run a marathon but not run the full 26.2 miles? And what difference would saving 40 yards over 26.2 miles actually do?

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While there may be a lot of other runners out there on the course with you, the only one you need to worry about is yourself.

After running the (what for me turned out to be a very disappointing) rain-soaked 2014 runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon this fall, I returned to hear a great deal of controversy.  I heard from a lot of runners who noted “many” (I honestly have no idea just how widespread this occurrence actually was) runners who cut the course short. Evidently, as the course had many out-and-back features, some runners decided to simply cut off entire sections (and miles) of the course.  We will never know if they did this because of the miserable weather conditions, if they were injured, or if they were worried about being swept, but the reality is that several of these people are suspected to have crossed the finish line and collected a finisher’s medal when they had not run the entire 13.1 mile course. To say other runners were irate and offended by this dishonesty is an understatement.

This all got me thinking. During the 2013 Wine and Dine Half Marathon, I passed a couple of walkers around mile 9 of the race who had bibs denoting they started in corrals after mine, and I was confused as to how they were so far ahead of me seeing as I was on a PR pace at the time. Then it occurred to me, they probably had cut the course which allowed them to get ahead of me.

I recently reviewed the race instructions for the 2014 runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon weekend where I, and several of my friends, will be competing in the Dopey Challenge, a 4 day, 4 race event.  runDisney is rolling out a new procedure where, instead of receiving wristbands at the end of each race to denote that runners successfully completed each leg of the challenge, they will have their pictures taken so that they can be visually confirmed at the end of each race.  This announcement was received by excitement in some circles as it would thwart the “cheating” that some suspect has plagued past challenge races.  I was left perplexed…was this supposed cheating really that big of a deal so as to warrant what sounds like a complex new procedure?

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SMOs: These can only be earned through your effort, commitment, and endurance, and do not let anyone take that away from you.

More importantly, what does this really matter? Well, truthfully, to me? It doesn’t.

Let me clear, I can understand why some people would be upset at seeing “cheaters” at events. Certainly, reports about runners with “questionable” split times and missing records showing they crossed chip timing mats (clearly suggesting that they did not run entire portions of the course and their registered split times did not match up with their final finish times) who qualify for age group prizes is unfair to those who rightfully earned those honors.

But, with the exception of those cases, the reality is that the actions of other runners should in no way change how you feel about your own Casual Running accomplishments. When I either read about or hear from runners who felt that these cheaters somehow diminished their own accomplishments and devalued their achievements, I urge you to just let it go (you see what I did there for you Frozen fans?). The beauty of Casual Running is that your achievements are your own, they are the result of your efforts, and cannot be impacted or affected in any way by the actions of others. Your pride is yours and yours alone.

Whether it be a 5k, a 10k, a half marathon, or a full marathon, YOU ran those 3.1, 6.2, 13.1, or 26.2 miles, and you should be proud of that.  If someone else decided to cheat the course, they only cheated themselves that is for them to live with.  All you have to do is to be honest with yourself.

This is the very same advice that I give to new runners.  If you want to succeed in your own personal Casual Running journey, you need to be honest with yourself as to your successes and shortcomings.  Whether you want to work up to a race, pace, or distance goal, or you want to lose weight, you need to put in the time and the effort.  This means remaining honest to your training plan and honest about when you meet it and fail to meet it.

The medal haul from my first year of race events, but I was most proud of how Casual Running made me feel.

The medal haul from my first year of race events, but I was most proud of how Casual Running made me feel.

This is why I always encourage new runners to download an app for their smartphone or buy a GPS watch, and then record and track all of their workouts.  Doing so will avoid the temptation to say “oh, I ran enough,” and substitute that with the confidence of saying “I ran THIS many miles.”  Whether your target is measured by either distance or pace, if you meet or exceed your goal, you will know it and have confidence in the veracity of your accomplishment. If you fail to meet your goal, you will have a record of what you actually did achieve, and a reminder of what goals still remain for you to conquer.

Casual Running can, at times, be a solitary endeavor.  Along your journey you will log many, many miles by yourself.  While the solace has its benefits (some time alone with your own thoughts, an escape from the world, a chance to catch up on great music and podcasts), sometimes we need a reminder of just how far we’ve come in our journeys.  This is where our training logs can come in handy, as they will remind us of all that we have achieved that cannot be measured by SMOs and race swag.

So don’t worry about what other runners are or are not doing, and instead focus on what it is that you are achieving. And, always remember, enjoy the run, and just do it.

The Casual Runner Team wants to hear from you. What do you to do remain focused on and true to your Casual Running goals? Do apps and training logs help motivate you to run farther? Please leave a comment or email us using the links below.  To ensure that you do not miss this and other great content from Casual Runner, please be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.  See you out on the running trails!

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