Don’t judge a book by its cover.
I could go on with these painful cliches, but the fact of the matter is, they’re true. How many times in life have you lined up next to someone at a race, looked him/her over and decided there’s no way he/she can beat you–and he/she does? How many times have you looked at a relationship, admired it for its apparent solid ground, and then learned otherwise? I know I’ve made silly assumptions only to learn I am incredibly off base many times over in life and undoubtedly will be many times more.
Which brings me to the California International Marathon that I’m running on Sunday. It has a reputation for being a fast marathon. Many people (and ok, me included) choose it because it promises a fast course and perfect weather. But I just reread friend and elite runner/triathlete Joanna Zeiger’s account of CIM from last year and was reminded that, in reality, races are only as fast as you run them. I think I agree.
Joanna qualified for the Olympic trials at CIM last year (her second time doing so) and will be returning this year again, gunning for a 2:40. She must like the course, which I find encouraging. But in her race report from 2011, Joanna talks about the fact that CIM is anything but a flat course. Yes, it has a net downhill, but in order to achieve that net downhill, you have to run some rollers all the way throughout the course.
When many of us hear talk of a fast course, we automatically assume flat. Clearly, that assumption is way off base at CIM. I’d bet that the predictable marathon-friendly weather, coupled with a point-to-point course with few turns, are really what make it a favorite for those shooting for PRs.
I think that with any race, our judgment on whether or not it was a fast course often has more to do with how we performed that day. I consider the Richmond Marathon a fast course, but that’s where my PR is. Does that skew my thinking? Perhaps. Whatever the case might be, it’s important with CIM and others you bear in mind, the course will still only be as fast as you run it.
Ever judged a race
book by its cover and come up wrong? What do you think makes a race course fast?