A Backwards Plot to Running: Would knowing the outcome sway your decision to start?

8:34:23 – She crosses the line, looks up at the clock. Slightly bends forward, hands on knees for just a moment before rising and looking up again, this time to the woman who beat her, then back at the track again.

8:00:02 – Crack. The starter gun goes off.

7:23:46 – She starts off on her warm-up, sweats on. Over the course of the next 45 minutes she’ll slowly strip off the layers until she’s down to just her singlet and racing shoes.

5 Days Earlier – Last tune-up workout. She finishes feeling sharp, confident, shares a laugh with her training partner as they cross through the line on the last interval just as the sunset dips below the stands of the local track. “That’ll do,” yells the coach from the sidelines…the laugh comes because she just muttered under her breath to her teammates, “That’ll do, Pig.” They all got the reference.

17 Day Earlier – It’s colder than usual, her skin pricks a bit as they all start out on their long run. Some of her training buddies, best friends, are wearing long sleeves but she’s only in a tank top…she knows she warms up fast and hates being overly hot.

45 Days Earlier – The rain is coming down hard, it burns her face as she makes a turn straight into the line of fire and she swears there has to be a little hail mixed in there. Blinking like crazy she laughs and thinks, “Only 10 more miles to go!”

53 Days Earlier – Just before shutting out the light she closes her eyes and thinks of a day in the future, not so far away, but one she’s had in the back of her mind for weeks, months, maybe years. She thinks of a time, the one burned in the back of her mind, it’s a time and a title, a finishing place that she envisions. She opens her eyes, looks to the wall on her right and the same time stares back at her, inked in black on a flimsy little post-it. It’s been hanging there for so long it’s lost it’s sticky and is taped to the wall with duct-tape.
hunched over runner
I was watching a show last night and it was one of those backwards plot episodes and it got me thinking, “How would a backwards plot play out related to running?” What if we were able to watch our entire race play out but in rewind, we’d watch the finishers all sweaty and panting, some happy others disappointed, some puking, and ourselves mixed in there as well. We’d then see who makes which moves where, who went out too fast; our own moves, our own mistakes or smart moves. Then all of them, and us, at the starting line poised to start.

When you’ve got a certain race, time, title you want, one you’ve been focusing on for so long, I can see where having this ability to look into the future would be a little tempting. To know the outcome before you started, heck, to know the outcome before you even tried, maybe months or years prior. The question then begs to be asked, “If you did know how the race played out, would you even start? Would the end result be the deciding factor on if it was worth it to you to get to the line? Either way, would you sacrifice the journey?”

Some people may instantly say, “Yes,” if they knew they lost or fell short of their goals, maybe to them it wouldn’t be worth it to dump time and energy into the training. Maybe they would think, “Well, all that running and stuff wasn’t really worth it, I never did hit what I set out to do. The smart thing would be to invest that time elsewhere and put it to better use.” I guess I could see their point of view.

Even if you knew you were going to win, to come away with a new PR, would you just want to cut ahead to the finish? Skip all the workouts and runs along the way and just get to the good stuff? I don’t necessarily think you would if you really thought about it; no, I think you’d actually want to live in each and every second, footstep of that race, so you can relish it looking back. It would be reinforcement of all the hard work, sure, and motivation to keep striving going forward, that too. I think skipping all the hard stuff and grueling workouts to get to that point would cheapen those memories a bit too, strip down the meaning behind what you achieved.
I had a person once tell me, “You’re one of those runners who likes the training just as much as the racing, and it kills you every time you have to taper. You do it because you want to race well, but I know it drives you crazy too.” I own up to that, I’m stir crazy if I don’t work off all that energy, and I still love running even though I can’t remember when my last race was.

Every run, the crappy, the awesome, the in-between, the hilariously ridiculous due to elements, the ones you honestly have no idea how you got through because they hurt so bad, and those spent silent alongside someone but the entire time you’ve spoken with them unlike any other are all worth it in my mind. You learn, you meet people, you experience. Even if you knew how each and every workout and run was going to play out, say you were able to ‘see’ which were the ones you would crush and the others you would fall flat on, I’d still do them. Though I wouldn’t really want that magic eight ball eye for the bad ones! 😉

For racing, I think the unknowns keep us going, the quest for our goals. Sure, we fail sometimes, but we have other chances, other goals, no need to just chuck in the towel and call it all a waste. Even if you never hit something, or miss out on that title, time, team victory, the workouts and runs leading up to that point, no doubt you created lasting memories and are things I wouldn’t call a waste.

You also certainly learned about yourself too. Was that a waste?

In the end the journey is worth it too, not just the last second and ending credits. Nope, no backwards plot for this runnerchick.

1) What would a backwards plot running style look like for you, or what would you liken it to? Would it be a different take on the concept that I have?

2) If you could have the power to know the outcomes beforehand, would you take advantage of that or rather not know?

3) Would the outcome sway your decision or motivation to even start?

4) Racing aside, if you knew how every run was going to be or feel, would you decide to just not go out on certain days?

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16 thoughts on “A Backwards Plot to Running: Would knowing the outcome sway your decision to start?

    • i love the dot analagy, and i think it works because we don’t necessarily need to obsess about connecting the dots in the rear view. 😛

  1. i like this post a lot and agree that running has truly become about the journey for me this year and i like that. i dont think id want to know the outcomes because it would ruin the “surprise” at the end and the lessons that i feel i may have learned from the race may never come or may never be realized. last year i think races for me were also all about racing every single one. this year i more just like the change of pace and enjoy the race atmosphere and not necessarily going for PR after PR. i like that mindset for now…its a nice change and relaxing and just keeps the joy in running around at a steady state for me right now. im sure some day i will want to get faster again. but for now im just loving the experience:)

    • i totally agree with the ‘surprises’ making it all the better, sort of like waiting until xmas to unwrap those gifts…hehe. and i’m happy that ur running keeps evolving, goals and challenges do/should change and shift along with ourselves. 🙂

  2. Wow! This is a great post! In many ways I have been having those types of thoughts, not to skip the work but the, “is this all of this worth my time?” There are so many incredible things to put yourself into, but why running? I’m realizing the question isn’t “why running?” So much as what am I doing with it. Not regretting what I’ve done when I toe the line, but knowing I’ve done all I can do and face today! Perfectly timed post as I am picking myself back up and slowly readying myself to toe a new starting line…..

    • thanks and i’m glad the topic resonates a lot with u, especially in the current. u just keep going and moving forward girl, don’t let the crap in life let u lose sight of ur goals and the love u have of running and wat it means to u. not that the running is all-important but that i kno just the actual act and wat it gives u IS something meaningful to u…stripped of stress, pressure, fears, regrets…just run for that basic passion. 🙂

  3. I love this Cait! I think life can be treated this way. I have experienced several things that, let’s just say that I hope to never experience again, but they have made me the person that I am. And that is what it’s all about. Even if I knew how the race would end, I would still do it. It’s the journey! You’re awesome as always!

    • i always feel there are SO many ways running can parallel to life lessons and i’m glad u picked up on this one. we all have ups and downs but that journey helps make us who we are and the same with the runners we are. 🙂 and the awesomeness is right back at u!! hehe

  4. Oh Cait!
    This post was wonderful, and spoke to me about so much more than running.
    In terms of racing, I only ever hope that I cross the finish line having run the entire race. So, I kind of already know the outcome 🙂
    I wouldn’t skip the training though, and the crappy runs, and the ones that make me feel like I am Kara Goucher (even though I am still halfway through a race when she’s already home on the couch refuelling!) because that journey is part of the beauty of the race, it is the back story to the history I am living in that moment.
    There have been things in my life that have ended, sadly, and yet even when I have stood at the finish of those things I wouldn’t trade the in between times for the world. I wouldn’t send away the wonderful memories, and the connections, and the beauty of the journey itself just because it came to a dead end.
    It isn’t about the destination anyway, it’s about the journey.
    Because that journey is what life comes down to.
    Thanks for the inspiration Cait.

    • oh you with all ur keep insights and perfect prose! the downs and bad times sting and at times seemingly unbearable but when we DO come thru them (and the crummy runs) they make that ups and stellar runs all the sweeter. 🙂

  5. That’s a really cool idea! I’ve never thought to look at a race (running or swimming) from a different aspect! You’re so creative!

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