Thoughts and brain dumps

Thoughts and brain dumps

By Andy Hawthorne. Words, photos, code and running…

16 Dec 2019

Running: Mind Your ambition

Reading time: 3 minute(s) - 600 words

It is easy to be enthusiastic about running. The trouble is, that makes it easy to get a bit carried away.

Getting good at this running malarky takes time and patience. It takes discipline, courage and tenacity.

Here, I want to emphasise the patience part.

See, it’s easy to think you can run a [insert some running achievement here]. 

It hurts down to your soul if you fail - and fail you might.

It is true that there are runners who develop fast. They can train and run any event they want.

The rest of us aren’t that lucky. 

We have to prepare and train hard to avoid failure. ~Even then, it’s not a given that we will succeed. Look at the support bays during the London marathon. you’ll see what I mean. 

A marathon before I was ready

A few years ago, I ran my first marathon. I’m still ashamed to admit it took me six hours. 

Part of the problem was a cutoff rule. It meant I had to PB a half marathon to continue the full marathon. That was the race organisers rule. Not the PB part - the time taken to get to the half marathon point. 

That should have told me something. 

But the real failing was my preparation - or lack of it. 

I’d run a lot of high mileage stuff. But slow - way too slow to stand a chance of finishing the marathon at a decent pace. 

On the day, I came close to missing the cutoff and felt blown by the 14 mile point. And there was still 12 miles to go.

The rest of the event was a painful battle and I had to walk some of it. 

It turned out that my long runs in training weren’t that effective either.

So, not enough endurance or strength and no pace capability. Why the hell was I running a marathon? 

Simple. Because I thought I could. I’d run 19 miles a few times and managed it.

I’d run a few half marathons (slow but I didn’t pick up on that) so I’d be fine for a full marathon. Obvious, right?


So, you see? Raw ambition is one thing, but training and preparation is something else. 

Expected finish times

One simple way to be sure you are ready is to be honest about how long it will take you. So, if you re running your local half marathon, what’s your best time in training?

If you are planning a marathon you can’t simply double your half marathon time - it doesn’t work like that.

When you realise that your realistic finish time seems long, you are not ready for that event. I’m not saying we all have to be giving Mo Farah pace - not at all.

But in my marathon experience described above, I should have realised that I wasn’t ready. With the cut-off time needing a PB for a half marathon, I had no chance of finishing the full event in good order.

One more thing…

I don’t want to put anyone off from trying things. Running creates ambition - and it’s great.

But failure is a real outcome. I’ve run in events I couldn’t finish. And it’s the worse experience in the world. Or it seems that way.

In reality, it’s not the end of the world. You regroup, figure out what you did wrong and go again. 


You don’t bite off more than you can chew in the first place.

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