A blog by runners. For runners.

Sometimes it’s OK to break the rules

Sometimes you need to throw caution to the wind, break the rules, and listen to your body. All the running advice out there is meant to help, but once in awhile it pays to trust your gut over the experts.
We runners know there are certain rules that we should follow.

Don’t try anything new on race day.

Don’t start out too fast.

For every mile that you race, take one day to recover before racing or running hard again.

These, and other running rules, are rules for a reason. They’re based on science and the experience of elite runners and their coaches. Plus, they make sense. Of course you shouldn’t try anything new on race day – a new outfit could cause chafing in unexpected places and an unfamiliar food could cause digestion issues. Starting out too fast is rarely a good idea– you’ll run out of energy and struggle in the later miles. And obviously you should fully recover from a race before toeing another start line – not only would you most likely have a poor performance, but you may get injured or sick to boot.

But I have a new “rule” that I’d like all of you to follow: it’s OK to break the rules sometimes.

You already know my New York City Marathon experience was disappointing to say the least. I missed my goal time by 35 minutes and felt horrible for most of the race. Once I crossed the finish line, I vowed never to run a marathon again.

Then I woke up the next morning and didn’t feel that standard marathon soreness, likely because I didn’t push the pace as fast as I could have. I started thinking, “I wish I could have a do-over race.” Then I remembered there was a marathon coming up in my hometown … in less than two weeks.

The Thunder Road Marathon was scheduled for November 15, 2014 – just 13 days after the New York City Marathon. Running two marathons 13 days apart is not smart. I would never tell anyone that was a good idea. Actually, I’d tell them that’s a horrible idea. But here I was trying to justify the idea to myself.

I decided to listen to my body. If I was recovered, I’d run. If not, I’d forget about it. Luckily, I was able to register up until the night before the race.

I took it easy in the days between the races, barely running and sleeping extra. On the eve of the marathon, I felt fine. So, I registered for the race.

It was an unseasonably cold morning in Charlotte, so I broke out new winter running gear that my husband was saving to give me for Christmas. Yes, I also decided to wear new clothes to run a marathon – another broken rule.

That’s not all – I also made a conscious decision to start the race out too fast. I’ve always run the first half of marathons at a conservative effort, but I’ve never had a good performance. So, I thought I should run as hard as I could for the first 20 or so miles since I knew I was going to blow up anyway.

By all accounts the 2014 Thunder Road Marathon should have been a disaster for me, but I ended up running my best marathon yet. I crossed the finish line in 3:47:50, well below my sub-4:00 goal. My finish time was 47 minutes faster than my performance in New York and a 30 minute PR.

Sometimes you need to throw caution to the wind, break the rules, and listen to your body. All the running advice out there is meant to help, but once in awhile it pays to trust your gut over the experts.

Written by Jen Matz.