What makes a good race? Presidio 10 Mile Recap

Rachel posted today on what makes a good workout, and after running the Presidio 10 on Sunday, it got me thinking about what makes a good race.

The Presidio 10 a few years ago was my first race ever; I ran the 10k and finished with a ridiculous runner’s high that led me to more 10ks, a half marathon, and eventually, the Nike Women’s Marathon last year.

Romina ran Nike too! And now we ran the Presidio 10! Love having running buddies.

Since the marathon, my running motivation has been admittedly pretty low. I felt so terrible (physically) after the marathon, and when I ran the Turkey Trot 10k six weeks later, I didn’t feel much better. It was a little off putting to be honest.

I mean Alex and I went for a training run a few weekends ago, and there was not a single part of me that wanted to be running. So I stopped to stretch in the grass of Golden Gate Park while Alex looped around and finished his run. He picked me up and we walked back together. This has not been an unusual occurrence the last few months.

So I wasn’t exactly optimistic about Sunday’s race. I was excited that Alex, and my friends Cassie and Romina were running, but figured my lack of training was going to come back to bite me. And it did, sort of, but not in the way that I thought.

Obviously I can't take long arm photos with an iPhone

The race ended up being awesome, even though I didn’t go particularly fast (although the nice part about a new distance is that it’s instantly a PR!) nor did I end up running with any of my friends or Alex. I usually hate running alone; I have ended solo training runs after 3 miles – I’m in awe of the bloggers I read who can do upwards of 20 by themselves. There weren’t even a ton of spectators, and the ones that did line the course were the type that cheer only for their runner and no one else (why do people do that?!)

So what made it awesome? These are five things I noticed about this race. They’re pretty particular to this experience, but I think there are lessons to be extrapolated to other races or areas of life.

1. Low expectations: My dad always says “your level of satisfaction is inversely proportional to your level of expectation” and boy howdy, was he right in this case. Because I’d all but abandoned training for the race, I didn’t expect much. I just wanted to finish with a smile. After two races of finishing feeling less than stellar, I wanted that runner’s high back! This probably won’t work if you’re trying to PR, but if you just want a great race, it’s a good strategy.

Lesson: Have goals, but be flexible about them, and don’t beat yourself up if things don’t always turn out as planned.

2. Staying present: I focused on putting one foot in front of the other. That’s all. I didn’t think about the miles ahead; instead, I said “wow, you’ve already done 3! 4! 5!” or whatever the number was, and then plodded along until I congratulated myself at the next mile marker.

Lesson: Stay present! It makes all things way better.

3. Stopping to stretch: I stopped twice at the water stops to stretch because my hips were in a lot of pain. It was the best thing I could have done. Note to runners out there: there is nothing that says you have to run every step of every race to be a real “runner” or “complete the race.” Walking breaks and stopping to stretch are totally acceptable and even, I think, advised!

Lesson: Take breaks; slowing down for a short amount of time helps us keep going the distance.

4. The bridge and the hills: Running through the Presidio and across the Golden Gate bridge is pretty great. Even though it was foggy and the wind was whipping me in the face, there’s just something about running the bridge that makes you feel particularly badass.  I know it seems counterintuitive, but hills keep things interesting. The hardest part about the race was definitely the (seemingly) endless flat part at the end. It’s easier to stay present when you’re cursing each elevated step.

Lesson: Create a good environment for yourself – whether it’s for work, painting, or running – create a motivating environment.

5. BRUNCH!: I guess this isn’t actually race-related, but I always feel like post-race brunch is well deserved. A group of us, including new a few new friends, hit up Il Cane Rosso at the Ferry Building where I had the most amazing faro porridge and Alex got a bomb fried egg sandwich. Plus, you know, mimosas!

Lesson: Always enjoy good food. You really can’t go wrong in life as long as your’e doing that.

Farro porridge

Cassie ran her first race - definitely deserves a toast!

Who doesn't love breakfast potatoes?

Later, I went shopping for some birthday presents, and after about an hour of walking around, I thought my legs were going to fall off. And that’s where I felt the lack of training the most – I was SORE for the rest of the day and on Monday. But after a long walk home from the train station and acupuncture, I was feeling almost 100% today and was able to hit the gym for some weight training.

The lack of training may have had some consequences and I’m not advocating running races without training in any way, shape, or form, but I’m happy to say that despite it all, I had a great race that reinvigorated my love of running! I remembered how fun it can be, how energizing. I’m still probably going to take a break to focus on yoga for awhile, but I’m looking forward to picking training back up in the summer for my fall half marathon!

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