Running Hard: Outward Appearances Can Be Misleading When You Give it Your All

Now, it’s interesting how different people act after finishing races, or hard workouts too. Outside observers then tend to assess just how hard the athlete ran depending on the looks of anguish, falling to a heap, or tossing their cookies.

girl on track

Cross the finish line and drop to the track...

Though I sort of think that can be really misleading…

* Sometimes the fastest or best races of one’s lives come in the form of those rare, freak, awesome beyond awesome races where they feel ‘easy’ or at least eas-ier. Everything lines up and even during the race you sort of think you’re having an outer body experience like, “Am I really running these splits…are these really my legs doing this?!” You just roll with it and after you cross the line you’re ecstatic with the results…you no doubt KNOW that you’re tired, it’s just you felt amazing and so you might smile and it might ‘look’ then that what you did was easy.

* Sometimes you see arms thrown up, crossing the line with fists pumping…here it’s the adrenaline and excitement that temporarily masks the pain. I’m sorry, you win a Gold Medal, I think you gather the reserves to let that excitement burst through.

* Yes, dropping to the ground surely shows that you’re tired and left a heck of a lot our there. I have the highest admiration for mental grit and getting the most from yourself. BUT, just because you don’t drop to the ground that doesn’t mean you didn’t punish yourself enough…in the end YOU know if you did or not.

* Tossing your cookies…here is one where I think it depends a lot on the runner. Lots of people play up the, “Wow, you barfed…THAT means you’re the toughest runner around…THAT really shows you pushed it,” but really, throwing doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re macho tough, there are other factors involved. Yes, it surely could be that you just put it ALL out there, or it could mean that you shouldn’t have had three hot dogs 20 minutes ago. Finally, sometimes people do throw up if they ran outside their fitness level…props for pushing it, but maybe it means they should have built a little more base or not taken that whole summer off.
runners on track
I think what it really comes down to is the particular athlete and how you tend to respond to the excruciating pain we willing put ourselves through at times. :) No bagging either which way; some people are barfers but just because you’re not a puker that doesn’t mean you’re not running hard. Similarly, different races and workouts certainly feel a lot different…having one of those magic days will no doubt leave you finishing looking a lot different from one of those races where from the gun you feel like you’re running with legs of lead.

Outward appearances are misleading…some of the fastest harriers make it look effortless as they click off lap after lap. They look like machines, their form is pristine, no wasted movements, their faces stoic. They are running relaxed…but for darn sure you know that behind that mask of effortless they are working their tails off and it’s hard for everyone.

It’s never easy…I mean even in those awesome beyond awesome moments it might have felt eas-ier, but it was hardly easy to get to the moment. It took months, years, zillions of miles and way too many hard workouts you’d care to remember.

It’s never easy…and so that’s why we need a little extra motivation now and then, to keep reminding ourselves WHY we keep doing this. But then we remember we really it. Yes, we love when the stars align and we get one of those awesome beyond awesome days, but also we just love the thrill of kicking our own butts.

1) How do you usually look after races, or hard workouts? Do you tend to do the hunch over, the drop to the ground, the hands over head?

2) Have you thrown up after a race of hard workout, do you tend to just do that regardless of pre-run food choice or fitness level?
I’ve never thrown up, but I can really close once…it was my first race and had run maybe one or two times before that. :P

3) How do you try and stay relaxed when you’re running hard?
I try to focus on keeping my form, keeping my shoulders down, and then staring straight ahead at a specific point (like the back of the person ahead of me) to try and zone out.

4) Those awesome beyond awesome days, have you had one, how many, and do you remember it clearly?
I think I’ve had one or two…and I remember clearly thinking there was something wrong with the clock. :P

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18 Responses to Running Hard: Outward Appearances Can Be Misleading When You Give it Your All

  1. I honestly LOVE watching the finish of a race, every runners reaction is so different! I think I react differently every race. My last half marathon was one of those weirdly good days, my 6 minute PR felt so easy even though I hadn’t trained or done speedwork, I just kinda ran it on a whim haha! But the last 5k I went completely balls-to-the-wall and dry-heaved at the end….probs wouldn’t have happened if i’d trained for that race. in track and XC, there was never dry heaving or puking and I’d never end with my hands on my knees…but damn did my legs hurt afterward. I HAD to keep running like go straight into my cooldown or else I’d seize up ahahah. But I agree with you: it’s not what the person looks like that matters, its how the splits they ran compare with their training! :-D

  2. Amy

    Pasty and splotchy. Those are the only words to describe my face after a hard workout or a race. There are buckets of sweat and dried rivers of salt involved. It’s not pretty to look at, but it makes me feel beautiful inside. I have never thrown up after a race or workout but if I eat too soon before running I get terrible cramps that slow me to a walk. Therefore, no eating at least an hour beforehand.
    When I’m running hard I stare straight ahead too, and just concentrate on my breathing.
    I had an awesome day on the weekend. On this road back to longer runs I have been celebrating every victory so when I managed four miles without a break I was a happy chickpea :)

  3. My parents are always on me about this. I tend to finish races, pant a little, then smile and feel fine, while the girls right before me are dropping to the ground. While they are never disappointed, they always think I have a little left in me. I guess I kind of feel that way too, but to be honest I’m kind of glad I can walk on my own and keep my lunch! I know girls that throw up pretty often after racing, so I really think it just differs from person to person!

    • hey, YOU know if u’ve pushed it, i’ve never fallen down or thrown up either but i kno even if i don’t look like it i’m huuuurting…lol.

  4. When I walked off the track after setting the 10000 school record, I was all smiles and had so many endorphins that I looked like I could do it again. The pain came hours later haha.

  5. Jen

    I’ve never thrown up after running, but I do everything possible to avoid that, even when I’m sick. :) Of course, it could be because I’m kind of a whimp when it comes to pushing myself.

  6. Depending on just how hard I pushed myself, but I usually am hunched over once I finish trying to catch my breath regardless. I’ve never thrown up after a race or anything, which is suprising to me because I’ve eaten some foods that I probably shouldn’t have eaten sometimes. I’ve come close once, but it was because I was dehydrated I think. I try to keep my shoulders down and concentrate on my breathing, if I worry too much about my time or catching a runner I tense up. One of the best days I had where I didn’t feel like I was really working was when I set a pr for a 6k this past season, I honestly thought I was going slower than I wanted and that I wouldn’t break the time I wanted… it ended up being around a minute faster!

    • i’ve totally been there where u think u’re running horribly slow and then u look at the watch and think “wat the heck, is there something freaky wrong with this time?!” and been happy that in fact the legs weren’t running thru molasses. :P

  7. Bright red, with a face of death, is how I finish any run! I’m pretty sure my posture goes straight to hell by the time I’m nearing the end of a run, so that’s something I really try to work on. I completely envy those people who look normal – or cute and a little flushed – after a race. I wish they’d share their secret! :)

    • trust me, even tho they look like it’s all cake and roses they’re hurting too. :P haha..ya, i have to remind myself NOT to have my shoulders up to my ears. ;)

  8. i have had the races where i am running through the finish screaming, shouting, jumping loving it. then i have some where i feel like if i dont get there that exact instant i may collapse. haha. i think some of it definitely depends on my mental attitude i have noticed. races where i am totally there mentally…i feel strong. races where i am not in it at all…i feel sick and tired!!

    • good point, i def agree that how u go into a race will partially determine how you look/feel throughout and to the end!! once again, u so smart girl! :)

  9. I ran a half last summer and had one of those perfect days where my body felt 100% on and all the stars seemed to aline. But those days are far and few between for me when it comes to races and I usually have to talk myself out of feeling the pain and replay my race mantra over and over again to keep plowing through. It’s crazy when you see professional athletes make their sport look so effortless, but they experience all of the same discomforts we all do too.

    I’ve tossed my cookies on several occasions. My stomach is very sensitive to anything while running and sometimes things dont agree with me and randomly decide to come back up.

    • oh no!! ya i did have a friend who never fail lunch always came up…i feel so bad for u guys! :/

      but so true, everyone’s hurting even those crazy fast people…haha!!!

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