How to Get Over a Bad Race

Hello Friends!

Anyway, today I have a guest post from one of my favorite bloggers out there….I am sure you have heard of her, if not, you need to check her out NOW! I am honored to have Amanda Loudin, aka Miss Zippy. We have become great friends over the last year, and she is someone I really look up to for running advice. She is also a writer for Runners Connect, which I love!  

I was scared to put this post up before any races for people, but there is some really good advice in here, and even though London was a good one for me, back in the day, I have definitely had more bad races than good over these last few years, so listen to Amanda 🙂 Over to you, friend!

Hi everyone—I’m thrilled to be over here pinch hitting for Tina today because she is one of my all-time favorite bloggers. An elite who is as down-to-earth as they come and who doesn’t mind pulling back the curtains and sharing the good with the bad with us. What’s not to love?

I want to talk to you all about having a BAD race…and getting over it. I’ve been racing for about 17 years now and as you can imagine, in that amount of time I’ve had more than my share of bad races. They used to really pull me down, but I’ve learned to get over a bad day and move on and I’m hoping that some of my tips help you should you ever find yourself in that situation.

And the truth is that if you race long enough, sooner or later, you probably will have an off day. This could be due to poor pacing, fueling mistakes, running on tired legs, or just an “off” day. While disappointing, especially if you’ve put in months of dedicated training, I’m here to tell you that you can—and should—move on.

But before you move on, I DO think you should spend a couple of days wallowing, especially if this was a big goal race. After all, you poured countless hours into gunning for a certain goal time—you were invested in it. Disappointment is only natural and you should take some time to acknowledge it and feel a bit blue. Share your feelings with your loved ones, too, because they know how much the day meant to you and will want you to lean on them.

After your “mourning period,” however, it’s time to do some reflection on the race. What do you think went wrong? Was it something you could have controlled? Is it something you can change for the next time? Find the lessons in the day, learn them, and put them to work for future races.

I also recommend taking a week or two of very easy, non-goal paced running following the race, even longer if it was a marathon. Your legs will be no good to you if you turn right around and start trying to pound improvements into them with hard speedwork. Instead, leave the watch at home and just run for the love of it. This will help you hit the reset button before starting to train again.

Somewhere in this first week or two post-race is a good time to start focusing on a new goal race if you don’t already have one on the schedule. Disappointment can be a powerful fuel for improvement, so put that to good use when you return to training.

Side note on this: if it was a marathon that went wrong, I’m not a big believer in an immediate “redemption” race. This is a distance that takes a lot out of your body and the odds don’t really favor that running another shortly thereafter will turn out in your favor.

More importantly than anything, however, I want you to have perspective when it comes to a bad race. Few of us are elites like Tina, so we need to remember why we run and race in the first place. The answer, usually, is because it’s something we love and that brings us joy.

If you get too caught up in the disappointment of a bad race, or if you obsess over bettering your results next go around, I can guarantee you this: it will eventually suck the joy right out of the experience.

Instead, remember that healthy and happy running/racing is only one facet of our lives. Yes, it’s important to us, but so too are many other things, from family and friends to careers and other past-times. Keep a healthy perspective on a bad day because in the end, it was just that: a bad day. You have the ability to control what you do with it and how you move forward.

You will have more chances down the road to go after that goal. In the meantime, enjoy the steps that you take to get there.

If you want to follow Amanda (why wouldn’t you?), you can find her on TwitterFacebookPinterest, and Instagram

How do you overcome a bad race? How did you move past your biggest setback race? Are you wanting to find a way out of the rut of having bad races? Check out my course Mile 20 Mental Training to Win Your Race.

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  • You are so wise Miss Zippy! 🙂 YES to all of this and I especially love the idea of scheduling another race (not a marathon!) soon after to get back on the horse. I’ve had my share of bad races and have learned that you can always, always find something positive so, after your pity party, take what you’ve learned and let it build you back up!

  • Heather @fitncookies
    May 1, 2015 7:24 am

    I looked at this title and thought to myself, “wait, Tina had an amazing race.. what’s this about!” lol Glad to hear it was a guest post and not one you wrote after the marathon! There are great points in here though to get over a bad race.

  • I think you have to have some bad races in there, otherwise when it really does happen, you won’t know how to deal with it! Like dealing with bad horse shows–it sucks to have all of your training and everything come down to that one moment, but you have to know that your running is not based off of that one moment in time.

  • We do all have bad races from time to time. After a particularly sucky tri race a few years ago I did a redemption race about a month later and did much better. Some days you have it and some days you don’t.

  • Great advice! There is definitely a mourning period – but it’s also helpful to remember that bad races happen to everyone, even elites!

  • Wise words, Ms. Zippy, and thank you so much for sharing your ideas with us! Yay – I now have another blogger to follow. 🙂

  • Ugh, I remember traveling down to Arizona (I’m from Vancouver, BC) to run the Tuscon marathon and my muscles seized at around the 23 mile mark. It was so hard to walk/run it in while I tried not to cry. 🙁 This is all great advice! I wish I had followed it back then when I completely bombed that marathon.

    • See? We all have one of these in our history or one to come. Live and learn, right?

  • Great post from an incredible runner/racer!! Love seeing Miss Zippy here.
    Safe travels home, Tina!

  • Great advice! It’s so true that we can always learn from bad races, so they’re really not that bad after all. And he bad races make the good races all the better!

  • Love this! You are so right, it’s hard not to feel down about a bad race, but we must forge ahead.
    I’ve definitely had my share of bad races and you have to have a mourning period for sure. I agree about back to back marathons…very tough on the body!

  • Lynn Holder Burnet
    May 3, 2015 11:55 am

    I’m recovering from a bad Boston this year. I partially tore my rotator cuff slipping in the bathroom and landing awkwardly on my arm, 6 days before the race :(! Saw my physio who advised I could still run Boston albeit cautiously…so slow and steady I planned to do…but then the rain and the wind made my whole ‘I’m just going to enjoy the day and take in all the sights and really embrace the experience’ plan a lot less fun. I ran well considering my circumstances, but didn’t really feel I raced the Boston I wanted to…ah well…maybe I shouldn’t have done it but once you’re in, it’s hard to back out :)! Time to move on. Must remember: taper tiredness + three children in bath + lots of splashing = mummy slipping on wet floor and hurting her slightly worn out, nearly over-the-hill body. Lesson learned 🙂

  • Michelle@Running with Attitude
    May 3, 2015 6:42 pm

    Great advice as always Amanda!

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