Treat Your Races Like Exes. #ThankUNext

My newest idea about running combines two things I love: Ariana Grande and race goals. When I listen to “Thank U, Next” I hear more than a terrific pop song.

I hear a new way of looking at runs and races.

In the beginning of the song, Ariana acknowledges what each of her exes brought to their relationship. And then she moves on to what each relationship taught her: love, patience, pain. But it’s the next few lines that got me thinking about how we could apply her wisdom to running.

Now, I'm so amazing

I've loved and I've lost

But that's not what I see

So, look what I got

Look what you taught me

And for that, I say

Thank you, next.

Every runner I’ve worked with, myself included-, experiences disappointing runs or entire training cycles. We’ve gone slower than our paces indicated we could. We’ve shown up to race days when it was hot, raining, or when the race is canceled entirely. We’ve been heartbroken over missing a BQ, disappointed by falling short of the goals we’ve set for ourselves, or depressed by our splits on Strava.

And when we have an experience like that, we have a choice. We can stay mired in our habits, doing the same things we’ve done before. Or we can do something different. We could cut mileage, add strength workouts, try a different race, or choose to take some time off.

Ariana’s song reminds me that in love, as in running, perspective is key to successfully letting go and moving forward. This year, I fell short of one goal (a marathon PR) and crushed another goal that wasn’t really in my sights (a sub-2-hour half). I could choose to focus on missing a marathon PR that I thought was mine for the taking, but I decided to look back objectively, measure what I could have done differently, acknowledge my unexpected achievements, and declare, Thank U, next.

Past breakups don’t define us, and neither should past race performances. But it’s important to keep your failures in mind as much as your successes. Failures give us an opportunity to change what we’re doing. In my case, I didn’t have a “push” in me at the end of the marathon for as long as I thought I could, but I had even splits again. So, in my 2019 training, I’ll base my time goal (if I have one) on even splits.

Another part of “Thank U, Next” I think we could all learn from is what Ariana mentions as her big takeaway.

Plus, I met someone else

We havin' better discussions

I know they say I move on too fast

But this one gon' last

'Cause her name is Ari

And I'm so good with that

Many runners are caught up in what other runners are doing. How others are training, what their weekly mileage is, what races they’re competing in, how many marathons they’re doing each year. I could go on.

But other people aren’t you. I can’t sing in four octaves like Ariana can and (maybe) she can’t run a marathon. (Ari, if you want to run a marathon, contact me ASAP!) I meet a lot of runners who base their training and goals on what influencers in our community are doing or on well-intentioned advice from fellow runners.

The issue with that, again, is other people aren’t you. Some runners are best with high mileage; others with low. Some people need to strengthen their legs, others abs. Some people could change their foot strike; others need better arm swing. Just like getting to know yourself improves future romantic relationships, learning what works for your individual body will improve your runs and race performances.

I take away three key lessons from “Thank U, next” that I plan to apply in 2019.

First, it’s on every playlist.

Second, I will use Ariana’s way of looking back to set my goals.

And third, I’ll prioritize knowing myself. I’ll look at what I’ve done well, where I may have been slacking off or not doing as much as I could, and build a plan to improve. And so should you.

Because there’s no more tears to cry.