Why Is ‘Great’ Never Good Enough?

October 21, 2014

It only took me 30 minutes to do it – to take a major running accomplishment I’d just achieved and begin analyzing how I could have done it better … or could do it better next time.

Why is 'great' never good enough? on runladylike.com

After crossing the finish line at the Chicago Marathon earlier this month, I made some “oh-my-gosh-I-did-it” calls and texts, smiled with joy and then started spewing out ways I could have shaved time and trained differently to have run faster. Yes, 30 minutes after I had just run 10 minutes faster than I’d ever run a marathon and qualified for the Boston Marathon for the first time. As I made my way to the finisher’s party I was attending with my husband, my post-marathon rambling sounded something (absurdly) like this:

If I hadn’t stayed with the crowd around that last curve, I could have run 6 seconds faster to be at 3:33.

If I hadn’t slowed so much from miles 19 through 24, I could have broken 3:30.

During my next training cycle, I’m going to do some more dedicated workouts to focus on keeping my pace during the last 8-mile segment of the race.

I know I can run in the 3:20s.

Do you know what Mr. rUnladylike’s response was to this conversation?

Are you listening to yourself right now? You just ran the fastest marathon of your life and hit the exact stretch goal you wanted to run so badly. Can we just celebrate that for a little while?

He was absolutely right. It got me thinking deeply about this question: Why is running our best and being great never good enough for some of us? I like to pride myself in believing that it usually is, but after the Chicago Marathon, I was thinking about running faster. Just recently, at least 5 of my running friends have been disappointed in really fast marathon times that were personal bests for them because they were hoping to run even faster. Clearly, we are not alone.

Why can’t we just be satisfied with running and performing our very best? Sure, we have the potential to run and grow and be even better, but today, in the moment that we do our best, can’t we just be happy and satisfied with that? We can’t really ask ourselves or our bodies for more than the best we’ve ever done.

So before we cast our most recent accomplishment to the side and start working on the next plan to better our best, let’s take a moment – a day, a week, a month, a heartbeat – to celebrate our awesomeness of what we did, and not what we have yet to do. There is plenty of time for that.

Do you start thinking about your next race or race strategy before you’ve finished celebrating the one you just accomplished? What advice do you have for helping people celebrate big races before analyzing the next one?



Good post! definitely find myself doing this! I also find myself plotting my next race DURING a race if its not going well. Hah! I need to just focus and be in the moment – I definitely tend to think about the future more than living in the present.


Being present in the moment is such good advice. It is something that is hard to do, but effective when we can master it. A friend of mine recently shared the advice that there is no pressure in the present. So if we can let go of the miles that we just ran and the miles we have left to run and just be present in the moment, we are safe and strong there. xoxo

Tricia @ A Couple of Dashes

I think that runners by nature are perfectionists and that’s why we beat ourselves up no matter how good we do. I definitely know I do the same thing!


So true, Tricia! I’m definitely a perfectionist, which can be a strength and a weakness sometimes. xo

M @readeatwriterun

Heck, I do it even before the race and during the race! So glad (sad?) it’s not just me. I’ll take any celebration strategies. DH is even worse than I am, we need help!


LOL M! Let’s celebrate together shall we??? xo

Matt @TheRunnerDad

I do this all the time! I just ran an almost 2 minute half marathon PR, despite the 16-18mph head winds, and I still was like this is what I can do better next time. I think we do it because we know it is in us to keep doing better.


Congrats on your recent PR Matt! That is awesome and DEFINITELY something to celebrate!!! xo


Um, yep!!! I so do this and I think it comes with being super competitive! I remember saying to my aunt, after I had just won a local TRI, how I could do better next year, and she had the same reaction your husband did!! For me, I think it depends on how badly I want something or how long I’ve wanted to attain a certain goal…
Anyway, you know you’re a rockstar, right? Let that settle in a little before you start plotting a 3:20 for Boston 🙂


You’re exactly right, Allie. When we want something really bad and we know we are capable of even more, it is easy to start plotting our strategy for the next time. I’m definitely still celebrating my recent marathon, but I’m also dreaming big of what still may be yet to come. Congrats again to you on your recent (awesome) half marathon PR! I need your jet pack speed for my next race. LOL!

Mike Podracky

The day after my past Sunday marathon, I did a list of “things I’ve learned, and can do better” for the next one. I always make this list after every marathon, and should definitely bask in the moment for more than one day. I think marathon runners, due to the race’s demanding nature, must be disciplined, so I think this anal-rententiveness just comes with the territory.


Congrats on your marathon, Mike! I think doing a post-race assessment is a great thing. As runners, we’re always trying to achieve our greatest potential. You are right that it comes with the territory. Good luck with the next training cycle!


It’s great that we want to improve, but we need to celebrate our victories, too!


GREAT TOPIC!! I think it boils down to a couple of things for runners, or for any competitive athlete. First being, that we know there were times during the race or event when you weren’t performing at a level you know you can, or maybe concentrating as much as you could have when times were a little tough.

Secondly, I think anyone who is involved in trying to achieve a particular athletic goal has a competitive fire. So when we runners know we didn’t run every mile perfectly, we tend to focus on what we could have done better instead of focusing on what we did well. You see this in just about every sporting event out there as well.


Your thoughts are spot on for me, Tim. I completely relate to what you shared. Thank you for offering up your opinions on the topic.

Jojo @ Run Fast Eat Lots

I catch myself doing that sometimes, as well. When it comes to running, I get so competitive with myself.


So many people I know do this, including myself (or at least I did). Currently my health has kept me from exercising on a regular or even semi-regular basis so every time I am able to run or exercise I am just grateful that I was able to sweat that day and even though the thoughts of what I used to be able to do and what I want to be doing always creep in, I remind myself that I am lucky enough to have been able to do anything that day. So for a tip to others, just remember how lucky you are to be able to run at all. There are so many people who are unable to, so if nothing else run for them. They would never criticize your time/pace/etc, just be happy to run!


Alli, I absolutely love your tip and message. It is so incredibly important. Having perspective always makes us a better runner and person. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! xo


THIS. It’s everything I’ve been feeling since the race. I was sick all week up until the night before the race and afterwards was ECSTATIC that I ran 3:36 with negative splits, which was pretty much my goal of 3:35 for the race. Ever since all I’ve been thinking about is if I went out faster in the beginning I could have broken 3:35 and BQed. It sucks. But minutes off a total time looks way easier than when you break it down to pace mile by mile. Appreciate the races and good runs and don’t regret!


I’m so impressed by your race Lauren! You did SO amazing, especially being sick. I can already feel that you have big things ahead of you for your next race. Thanks for sharing and glad this post resonated with you. xoxo


I think I could’ve written this. It’s probably a good thing I have no races coming up nor any idea what my next goal will be so I can just relax for a while. Even so, the lack of a “plan” is making me a bit nuts, too.

Angie @ A Mother's Pace

I love this post, especially since you hit your goal. Congrats, again!! I also went faster than my goal in the Chicago Marathon and, while I was happy with my time, questioned what I could have done differently. (not given so many high fives, etc.) but then I wouldn’t have enjoyed the race so much. 🙂

Christine @ Love, Life, Surf

I don’t know why we do this but I definitely do. I wrote about something similar after I ran the SF Half Marathon this summer – how I downplayed my PR because it wasn’t “fast” in comparison to many others. Which is just silly, right? We should be able to enjoy our achievements! But you are awesome having PRed and BQed. Amazing!


Yup, this is exactly what happened to me literally SECONDS after I crossed the finish line at my last marathon after having just gotten a 13 minute PR..”I could’ve pushed a little harder and gotten a sub -:–” “I could’ve done this, I could’ve done that”. Seriously!
And now I have another marathon coming up in 5 weeks, and it’s a little hilly, so I’m already thinking about what marathon I want to do AFTER this one so that I can run it faster.

Sarah @ KS Runner

We do for sure need to make sure we celebrate the great runs and appreciate them for being awesome, and a PR and a BQ is definitely awesome! But at the same time, I think when we see how much you have improved just makes you want to improve more, we all want to progress (in everything). It doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t appreciate what you’ve just accomplished, but it also makes you realize how much you’re capable of. I think as long as you celebrate the great runs and enjoy them, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to know how much more you can do. Congrats!


i am so guilty of this. I did the same kind of analyzing after my spring marathon especially since I spent so much time in the Porto potty I wondered if I could have been faster. I kept thinking if only I could have broken 3:20…but o gave it all I had on that day.

Leslie @ Triathlete Treats

OH yeah!! I did that last year in Chicago. I ran a 2 minute PR but i had trained for a much bigger PR. I was super sad but everyones reaction was the same: YOU PR’d! We have to embrace it! A PR is a PR! It is funny you wrote this because i haven’t even raced NYC yet and i am already thinking about how i can be “faster” in my next marathon! (which i don’t really want to do next year but i do want to do next year!!) 😉