Liza Howard

Liza Howard

Liza Howard is a national champion runner with multiple records in distances ranging from marathons to 100 mile trail races.

January 2016
M T W T F S S
« Dec   Feb »
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Categories


The Why of it

LizaLiza

I was asked for some “words of wisdom” from an athlete who completed a 100km race and finished in the bottom third of the racers. He’d felt good about his performance until he saw his time amongst the rest of the finishers.  Back of the pack.

While “words of wisdom” are a reach, this is the kind of conversation I love.  Truth be told, I love thinking about the “Why” much more than the “How” as a coach.  So here’s some of what I wrote instead of my “How” from Bandera.  (I will do that!)

My young belt-buckle-wearing friend,
You finished.  You ran 62 miles over one of the most technical courses in the United States.  I haven’t seen the official DNF numbers, but they’re not small.  You did what many people tried and couldn’t.  You did what most people wouldn’t even try.  It’s easy to underestimate your accomplishment when you compare yourself to an exceptional group.
“You graduated from Harvard Medical School?  Wow!”
“Yeah, but I wasn’t at the top of the class.”
Speed.  Running fast is fun.  You finish races earlier and people heap lots of praise on you.  But speed, in and of itself, is meaningless.  “She was a fast runner,” is not how I hope my eulogy opens.  That said, running fast is a hugely worthwhile goal if the process makes you tougher, more resilient, tenacious, conscientious, courageous, patient, compassionate, and joyful.  Speed is easier to measure than these characteristics, but it should only be valued to the extent it reflects them.  When increased speed reflects effort and hard work, and not just talent, it should be celebrated.
Last, remember that one race time does not define you or your potential as a runner.  It is one measure of  your current fitness, which is affected by your training and a slew of other stressors in your life.  My fastest time at Bandera was 9:35 about 4 or 5 years ago.  The first year I ran, I was hours slower.  A couple of years ago, I ran something close to that slower time again.  This year, I ran 10:00.  If I’d let my slower performances at Bandera decide my potential as a runner, I never would have enjoyed the running successes and adventures I have between then and now.  What you believe about your potential affects that potential greatly.  Try not to be frustrated with your current level of fitness — because you can change it.
(Apologies for the soap box, but it’s so hard not to jump up on one when it’s actually put on the ground in front of you.)

 

Comments 27
  • Julie
    Posted on

    Julie Julie

    Reply Author

    “Words of wisdom” achieved! Thank you, Liza. (Selfishly, as I read this, I was thinking I really wish you had the spare time to author a book, because I want to read the book you would write!)


    • Liza
      Posted on

      Liza Liza

      Reply Author

      It could be called: A Very Messy House: Expert Advice from an Unkempt Ultrarunner. 😉
      Have really enjoyed your blog writing, Julie.


  • Gene Taylor
    Posted on

    Gene Taylor Gene Taylor

    Reply Author

    Well said Liza. Not hopping on the presented soap box would have deprived your readers (us), and the belt buckle wearing friend, of the perspective you have gained from many races. Well done on many levels.
    Have a donut,
    Gene


    • Liza
      Posted on

      Liza Liza

      Reply Author

      Thanks, Gene! Heard Prince Harry might do MdS, so I’m on a donut-eating pause. 😉


  • Ellen
    Posted on

    Ellen Ellen

    Reply Author

    A wise perspective for anyone pursuing big accomplishments. Thanks Liza!


    • Liza
      Posted on

      Liza Liza

      Reply Author

      Thanks for the kind words, Ellen. 🙂


  • Catherine
    Posted on

    Catherine Catherine

    Reply Author

    Lots of wisdom! Thank you!


    • Liza
      Posted on

      Liza Liza

      Reply Author

      Thanks, Catherine. Taking a picture of that comment to show my kids in a few years.


  • Heather
    Posted on

    Heather Heather

    Reply Author

    Liza, your insight into the “why” for any runner, especially those tackling “Harvard Med” equivalent races, is so inspiring and positive. You are such a strong runner and woman because you keep the “why” a priority in your running and coaching! great read, thank you!


    • Liza
      Posted on

      Liza Liza

      Reply Author

      But now that you’ve found the blog, Heather, you’ll quickly find out what a mess I am. 😉


  • Lauren
    Posted on

    Lauren Lauren

    Reply Author

    So much awesome in this post, Liza. You’ve put into words exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you!


    • Liza
      Posted on

      Liza Liza

      Reply Author

      Thanks, Lauren! 🙂


  • Erin
    Posted on

    Erin Erin

    Reply Author

    So much gold in this post!! I got goosebumps. ???? I especially love the bit about potential. Well done Liza!!??


    • Erin
      Posted on

      Erin Erin

      Reply Author

      Those were smileys and hearts on my end, not question marks btw!! Lol


    • Liza
      Posted on

      Liza Liza

      Reply Author

      Thanks so very much, Erin!


  • John Stasulli
    Posted on

    John Stasulli John Stasulli

    Reply Author

    So much awesomeness in this post and relevant and meaningful to so many people!

    Was great seeing you at Bandera! See you at Rocky!


    • Liza
      Posted on

      Liza Liza

      Reply Author

      Thanks, John! Same. Really enjoyed reading your report too.


  • Pommers
    Posted on

    Pommers Pommers

    Reply Author

    Nice words Liza. Inspirational.


  • Miles
    Posted on

    Miles Miles

    Reply Author

    What a wonderful post, Liza! As was your race “report.” I too heard the siren call this year. Alas, it was too lovely to resist…


    • Liza
      Posted on

      Liza Liza

      Reply Author

      Wouldn’t it be great/ easier if there were actual Sirens out there? “Watch out for the Sirens on Ice Cream Hill!” “There are two of them over on Trail 7.” “Don’t worry, I got one with my water bottle. Chucked it right at her.” 🙂


  • Daniel Fleming
    Posted on

    Daniel Fleming Daniel Fleming

    Reply Author

    I had a version of this conversation with friends after Bandera this year. I went down to pace a friend who DNFed, but my respect was strengthened because it was another opportunity to appreciate a truth about back of the pack runners… Fast runners are celebrated but ‘slow’ runners are dedicating more time & energy toward our sport. Most train in measure of miles… if my mile takes 8:00 and yours take 12:00, then the fact is plainly that the ‘slow’ runner is dedicating more time – take pride in that fact!


  • jon olson
    Posted on

    jon olson jon olson

    Reply Author

    My running partner forwarded your article on. Thanks. I seem to find more back of the packs then middle of the packs when I race. But I try. And I try. I wear my Quicksilver 100k belt often, because it drives me to maintain, to get better, to stay strong and also (just like you said) because there really are not many wackadoodles who run as far as we do in any amount of time. Thanks for writing and have an excellent 2016!


    • Liza
      Posted on

      Liza Liza

      Reply Author

      Thanks so much, Jon! Wackadoodle is the best word. I like wing nut too. 🙂