Control every variable you can, but accept the variables you can’t control
On Valentine’s Day, I achieved my first running target for the year by breaking 17 minutes for 5 km. A month later I was ready for a single attempt in 2016 at my second target, to break 35 minutes for 10 km.
My time over 5 km predicted that I should be able to achieve my target and the intervening training had gone well. I found a perfectly flat course, although the nature of the race (predominantly targeting novice runners) meant that I would likely be running alone. But despite all of the steps you can take in preparation, a variable that cannot be controlled through training and preparation is the weather. Race day was cold, wet, and most importantly, windy.
With an extremely strong wind I would have likely called off my plans but instead, it was only stiff enough to ensure a tough day. The course featured a 2.5-km section of paved trail around the outside of Seward Park, run as an out-and-back, and then repeated once more. The headwind would be faced at the end of each “lap”.
I set out at target pace and settled into a fair rhythm with nobody ahead of me. I turned around and retraced my steps past the entire field before slowly curving around the edge of the island until the wind blew directly into my face. I held my pace through the halfway point, clocking exactly 17:30. I needed to run the second lap one second faster.
I continued to push to the final turnaround point but I was falling behind. I put everything I had into the final kilometres and the push into the headwind. I crossed for a new personal best of 35:08, close but not quite reaching my target. With a full race calendar for the year, the target would not be attempted again in 2016.
It is always important in preparation and training to cater for as many variables as possible, since the wisdom says that “the better I prepare, the luckier I become”. But it is also important to realise that some variables will always be outside our control. Make sure to stand on the start line knowing that you are ready to run the time you target, but also understand that luck (or fate or karma) might not let it be.