Broken Running: 5 Ways to Set Realistic Race Goals When Injured

Admittedly, this title may be slightly misleading. Of course, in the face of a true injury, it is never a good idea to run, and if your body is truly in pain or malfunctioning, you should absolutely, positively make an appointment with a physician, swallow your pride, and give up your bib. Your health — both physical and mental — should always come first.

That said, after rigorously managing my previously-injured leg over the last 2 months with the hopes of making it to the starting line of the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, I can now genuinely say that I feel well-prepared to go into this race prudently. I am so, so excited for this weekend.

There are obviously a ton of different ways to approach your goals come race day. Some race for time; some race for distance; some race for speed; some race to explore a new city; some race to simply enjoy the camaraderie at the start and finish line. I’ve raced for all these reasons and more.

When I signed up for the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, I did so with the intention of enjoying a couple of hours and an overnight trip with my cousin. For that, I suppose, I’m lucky. Unlike many other races, I never went into this one for a PR. I suppose I went into it for the company and the pure enjoyment of a hopefully beautiful fall morning.

As I’ve continued to think about what I’m running for, the fact that I haven’t quite “trained” in the conventional manner (i.e. I’ve been running far less than I ever have despite the 13.1-mile distance looming over my head) has been at the forefront of my mind. I know that because of this I’m far more susceptible to hitting the elusive wall.

Still, because I was able to nurse my body back to a point where it is now healthy enough to pick up my bib, throw on my sneakers and actually make it to the starting line, I’m determined to establish, as with any other event, a handful of race day goals — as loose and unofficial as they may be.

So, without further ado, here they are: 5 ways to set realistic race day goals when time, speed and anything more than the distance of the event are out of the question.

1. Consider the company. Over the last year, my cousin and I — she from the UES and I from midtown — have met up in Central Park regularly on the weekends to run laps around the park and catch up on our weekly gossip. While we have always been close, running has given us yet another way to connect — even when we’re both incredibly busy and frazzled.

With time, speed and the potential of a PR totally out of the question, I’m excited to run from start to finish with a partner by my side. I’m excited to know what it’s like to have someone tell me to stop complaining when fatigue, pain or boredom kicks in — all likely elements during 13.1 miles of running. Most of all though, I’m excited to check out the photos post-race and actually know someone else in the frame.

2. Enjoy the weather. The fact that the Philly Rock ‘n’ Roll race is scheduled for mid-September was one of the very reasons why I initially signed up for the event. Of the 4 half marathons I’ve participated in since my very first one last August, one took place in a heat wave, one took place during the only 2 hours it blizzard-ed this past winter, and one took place during a freak 80-degree day in April. To say that I’m looking forward to a crisp fall morning would be grossly underestimating my desire for good race day weather.

(With my luck, it’ll snow circa the Manhattan Half Marathon 2012)

3. Hydrate properly. I haven’t seemed to master this one yet, and to be honest, I’m not exactly on the right track either — what, with the water cooler being broken in my office. Still, hydration is vitally important when preparing for a long race. Not only can it be a make or break factor in how strong you feel throughout, but it can also prevent excess water station pit-stops along the way. Bonus: If you hydrate properly, you lower the chances of sweating out all your body’s salt, something I failed miserably at during the More/Fitness Half Marathon back in April (even if that was a 15-mile total day).

4. Take a good race photo. This, my friends, isn’t something I suck at. Regardless, it is possible to prepare for a mantle-worthy race photo. Check out the race map beforehand; oftentimes, you’ll find small icons along the route indicating where the cameramen will be. This way, even if you don’t set any world records, you can at least show proof of an awesome time. And if not, you can always send them in to the lovely Erica Sara and I at Seriously Ugly Race Pics!

(Oh wait, you want to submit? Awesome! Send the best of the worst to!)

5. Avoid re-injury. One of the best parts about race day is all the adrenaline that pumps through your body. I’ve even heard tall tales of the slowest of runners who break personal records in the harshest of conditions; really, it’s amazing what endorphins can do.

Be conscious of this superhuman strength come race day though, especially when coming back from an injury. Remember that your purpose isn’t to come in first but to get to the finish line safely and in one piece. There is a time and place for going all out — that’s for sure — but save it for the races when you’re feeling good and strong from head to toe, lest you should wind up on the sidelines once again.

To everyone participating in the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon this weekend — or, for that matter, any other race, big or small — lots and lots of luck, and to a happy and injury-free race!

  • What’s your favorite part about fall races?
  • Do you have any go-to race day goals?
  • Have you ever run a race soon after injury?

9 thoughts on “Broken Running: 5 Ways to Set Realistic Race Goals When Injured

  1. I love this post! I am obsessed with running races with people and chatting with them and crossing a finish line holding hands in the air!

    I ran for the second time last night, it sucked ass. My emotions are all over the place. I ran a full 2 min/mile slower than the peak of my training and I could barley breathe. Getting hurt is the most humbling thing, and it really helps you respect your body and the sport! I am going to take the healing process and road to recovery back into it so slow, I do not want to rush anything and get hurt again.

    Good tips friend!

    • Thanks Ashley! I can’t wait. Last time I did that was the Manhattan Half, but I was so miserably icy that I just wanted to get into a cab and a hot shower.

      Sorry to hear that. Though now, since you’re temporarily (I repeat: temporarily) slow, we can run together 🙂 Soon you’ll be back to your speedy miles again. Glad you’re taking it slow and back out there.

  2. I second the fall weather. This is definitely my favorite time of year to run.

    And it’s funny that you should mention the pictures, because that is one of my goals this fall, too. In the past year, I’ve run a handful (or two!) of races, but have yet to get a really great race picture. In one, my finisher’s medal was backwards. Another race, I wore a hat that I regret. And at my last half-marathon, my camera battery died.

    So, here’s to beautiful weather and stunning photographs 🙂

  3. Last year at the Tinkerbell race, I got so caught up with video taping the spectators and the characters at the end, that in the last 20 seconds of the race, I was zig zagging all over the race course. “Film this…film that…oh, look at that costume”. In any case, a few days later when I saw the footage from the race (a professional was there to capture the end for participants) i rolled on the floor laughing. My spouse was too. I looked like a drunken runner! Too funny!

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