How to Get Over a Bad Run or Race

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You’ve gotten up at the crack of dawn for 4 months of Saturdays, turned down happy hour in favor of getting in mile repeats, fit in 8 milers on vacation, and finally it’s race day, where all of that will pay off. And then…it doesn’t. Having a bad race can feel devastating.

tired-runnerImage from Jim Buchan

You’ve put in hundreds of miles and looked forward to this day, expecting to be celebrating, but end up feeling bitter and let down. It’s not fun, but it’s part of racing. Here are steps you can take, to put a bad race behind you, and get excited about racing again!

Put Anger on a Deadline

You’re going to be upset, and that’s OK. Let yourself be pissed off; vent to a friend, mope for the day, blog about it, whatever you need to do to get it out of your system. But put a limit on your wallowing. A

day or two should do it, but nothing more than a week or you’ll just be dwelling and going crazy! Put it on you calendar if you need to, and let yourself think about how much it sucked until that time. You may find you’re over it before you planned. Be mad, then put the race in perspective. Unless you’re gunning for gold at the olympics, you’ve likely only let yourself down.

Find a Positive Spin

Once you’re done dwelling on how poorly things went, it’s time to look for the positive. This is easier for some than others, but it does get easier with practice. Look for something – no matter how small – to takeaway from your race.

For example, maybe you didn’t beat your PR like you wanted, but you still got a great workout in. You were pushing yourself and that’s all you can ask of your body.

You no undoubtedly had some pretty awesome runs in while training for this race. Just because race day went south, doesn’t take away all those runs leading up to it when you felt on top of the world. They all still count!

If the weather was a factor, look to the fact you didn’t get heat stroke, or didn’t fall on the ice.

Did you train with or run with a friend? That’s quality time and an experience – no matter how bad – you will both share. The worse the race, the stronger the memory. This is a war story you’ll be referencing for years!

Pinpoint What Happened

After letting the anger go, and finding some semblance of positivity, it’s time to figure out what the heck happened out there. Sometimes it’s blatantly obvious, like if it’s 85 degrees at the start, but other times it’s like solving a puzzle. Look at the obvious culprits first; going out to fast, not hydrating properly, skipping too many long runs, etc.

Section your race into pieces; your routine before the race, the first third, mid-race and end. Looking at the race in individual parts can help breakdown what was going on with your body and your hydration/nutrition at each stage. Did you under fuel in the first miles? Did you start to feel your hamstring at mile 9 and not back off the pace?

Look back at your training logs (I use the free version of Training Peaks, but a simple note on your calendar of how many miles and the time will suffice) for inconsistencies in training. Maybe you thought you only missed 1 long run, but in reality you cut back on 2 others and missed three crucial speed workouts. One missed or shortened long run won’t derail you, but if you alter too much it’s going to have an effect. Did you hit the paces you planned to train at? Did you cross train at all?

Set a Plan in Action

You’re over your anger, you found at least one silver lining and you pinpointed 2 areas you could work on. Now it’s time for your redo! It could be another race, or simply a skill to focus on over the next few months. If you lost your kick in a 10K, maybe it’s time to really focus on speed training. If the last 10k of your marathon were on lead legs, endurance could be your goal. Whatever the major player was that brought you down, become on expert on it. Use your bad race as a lesson and become better for it.

Setting not just a new goal, but a new goal with a plan of attack, will put the disappointing race at the back of your mind, and bring back the excitement of a new challenge.

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What helps calm me before a race – and certainly helps if things don’t go my way – is reminding myself I am the one who set this goal. I am the only one who cares. Sure, my husband congratulates me when I hit my goal, but if I am 4:32 off my goal, he’s still my biggest fan. My parents are happy that I got to the start line healthy and crossed the finish line. My dog just wants to lick my sweaty legs.

Like bad runs, bad races happen. Bemoan them, learn from them, and move on!

 

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