The achievement in running a race is completing it – and we should enjoy that, no matter what our time is.

What’s the first question people ask you when you’ve recently completed any race, whether it’s a marathon, a half marathon, a 10K or whatever distance?

I can guarantee the question you’ll get, from another runner or non-runner, is: “What time did you do?”

Some of you may be very proud of your time and are waiting for someone to ask so you can tell them how well you did. But even those who are happy will often follow their time with a statement like, “but I could have gone faster if…”.

Many people feel apologetic when asked their time for a race. One of my friends confided in me that after she completed a marathon, when she was asked what time she did, she felt that her actual time might seem a bit slow and that people might judge her, so she made up a more impressive time and told people that one. The problem with this was that although other people were impressed, she knew it wasn’t true. In the end, she owned up and told people she’d made up her time because her real one felt a bit rubbish.

Now, I don’t know about you, but in my eyes if you complete a marathon, it doesn’t matter whether it’s in just over two hours, or it takes you two days, it’s equally impressive. Anyone who completes a marathon has achieved something amazing. An ex-Olympic rower once told me she thought that you couldn’t run a marathon without it changing your life. And that’s from an Olympian!


Even if you just completed your first 5k, it doesn’t matter how long it took you; you’ve never done it before. It’s a major achievement at this point in your life, something that may well drive you to do other things that you didn’t think you could do.

I absolutely hated the first marathon I ran. I didn’t enjoy the training, the race, the half an hour after I finished the race, when I just shook and was unable to speak. And I didn’t enjoy having to walk down the stairs backwards the following day!

However, my second marathon, I absolutely loved. Ok, so not all of the training, but quite a lot of it, and I loved every minute of the race. Yet my time in my second marathon was around 50 minutes slower that my first. Which one am I proudest of? My second one, no question!


I think that we need to replace the ‘time’ question with one that takes account of how much you, or someone else, enjoyed the whole experience.

The next time someone asks what time you did, tell them that you don’t judge races by your time, you have an overall enjoyment scale of 1 to 10 and you give it an 8.5, a 6, or whatever.

Then when they ask you what made it an 8.5, you can tell them about the camaraderie between the runners, how encouraging and helpful the marshals were, the spectators, the weather, how you felt on the day and possibly that you were pleased with your time, the medal, the goody bag or the race organisation.

By the way, I’d give my second marathon a 9.5. It was brilliant and I felt way better about myself than I did in the earlier one. Oh yes, and all of the above too.


Tony Phillips is a personal coach who works with entrepreneurs and business leaders. An enthusiastic back of the pack runner, in 2010 he began an experiment to run at least a mile.