The easiest thing in the world is to lose a race that you’re well trained for. It’s simple. While tapering, get nervous, and keep training, hard, right up until the starting line. Or: deal with your nerves by not watching your diet. Anxiety eat, and don’t even pay attention to what you’re anxiety-eating, binge on crackers, and candy, and don’t forget alcohol and beer.
Obsess about your time if you want to lose your race. Don’t stop thinking about what pace, down to the millisecond, you’re supposed to run your race. Think about it constantly and then, while you’re racing, stare at your watch the entire time, willing it to be exactly right, and not running by feel.
Do not smile, and do not talk about anything other than your race, if you want to be certain to fail. Squeeze the joy out of the thing, and don’t take in your surroundings. When the gun goes off, go out fast, fearing that you might miss your time. Go out too fast, because you don’t want to miss your time, and try and hold on, even though you’re overtrained and showing up at the start line tired.
It’s easy to lose the Boston Marathon, I know because I did all of those things in 2012, when I raced it for the first time. I’d never walked in a marathon, before Boston, never cried. (I have since, though “cry” is a strong word for it, more like, I don’t know, whimper. I think I’ve now done that at STWM twice). Everything about Boston got the best of me. I made it my own personal Olympics and set a goal for a PB, ignored the weather conditions, went out too fast, showed up at the starting line tired, thought about it so much that I was mentally exhausted before the whole thing started, and basically stomped on the celebration as if my race shoes were combat boots and that world-famous course had said something bad about my mom.
Boston is a big deal for the people running it. Whatever race you’re training for, participating in, thinking about, is a big deal. But don’t make it into a big deal in a bad way. Make it a big deal in a good way. Enjoy the celebration. Enjoy the race. Enjoy the ride. I didn’t do that when I ran Boston last time. I was so jazzed up and excited, so freaking out and tight, that I could walk under a tree and the birds would fall out of the branches. My vibes were deadly. Not this year, my friends. Not this time.
I have a great friend preparing for the Sporting Life 10K in Toronto on Mother’s Day and that race, for her, like many, is loaded with emotion. The race benefits Camp Ooch, which supports kids with cancer. We all know there are things in life more important than our next half marathon, our first 10K, qualifying for Boston or even the Mt. Olympus of racing for a lot of us, the Boston Marathon.
I’m going to keep perspective. I’m going to continue my taper, continue sipping Perrier and eating mixed nuts. Continue jogging slowly in preparation and continue listening to Tom Petty. I know how to lose the Boston Marathon. We all do. But it’s a choice we make and a path, however tempting, we don’t have to go down. Good luck to everyone racing. Remember, by showing up and participating, we already win.
Photograph of author Ben Kaplan at the Race Roster Spring Run Off courtesy of Canada Running Series.