How to Bounce Back from a Bad Race

How to Bounce Back from a Bad Race

The week before last I had a bad race at the Philadelphia Half Marathon. While yes, the course was challenging my personal bad race wasn’t because of that.  Honestly, it wasn’t my day and these things happen.  While it stinks, I race so frequently to let one bad race ruin my day.

After thinking out loud and moving forward, I had a great Turkey Trot last week.  Like anything, you must take the good with the bad.

So what can you do after a bad race?

Like the movie, Frozen, let it go…

Find the Positives:

When I finished the Philadelphia half marathon, the first thing I thought was: Wow I felt awful, but I’m injury free.  The entire race was miserable, my mental spot was not great but I finished healthy.  After cooling down, I headed to my car and went to work.  I still had a great day and the 87+ minutes of unenjoyment were only a small fraction of my day.

The entire race was miserable, my mental attitude was not great but I finished the race healthy.  After cooling down, I headed to my car and went to work.  I still had a great day and the 87+ minutes of morning unenjoyment was only a small fraction of my day.

It’s important to look at the positives of your race.  Did you finish healthy and injury free?  Was it faster than last year?  Could you smile afterwards and have a good day?

Next, Reflect and Figure out Why:

Immediately after Philadelphia, I chalked it up to being “a bad race”.  Even if my training log, I said I didn’t have a reason of why the race went poorly.  Now that I’ve sat back and reflected, I know there are plenty of reasons Philadelphia was not a great race for me. I hadn’t eaten well, slept well and my body was adjusting to new workouts.  Not to mention the course itself was a tough course.  None are excuses but they all contribute to why my race didn’t go well.  Reflecting back and having a few answers is better than, “it just didn’t”.

It gives you ways and reasons to improve.  You can make adjustments to your training, nutrition or sleep patterns.

Most Importantly: Recover and Set New Goals:

After running a bad race, it’s important to take time to recover.  Even though the race didn’t go well, don’t go crazy. Take time to recover and relax.  Set your sights on a new race or goal.

Maybe a marathon burnt you out…

Or maybe you want to run longer races…

Find something to get excited and refocused about! 

For me personally, while there were plenty of half marathons sooner, I decided to wait a few weeks and still focus on Dallas half. Instead of needing redemption, it’s important to wait and get full recovery.

Questions for you:

How do you get over a bad race?

What has been your least enjoyable race?

9 responses

  1. San Diego’s AFC half marathon was the worst for me. I don’t usually train in hot and humid weather so I died in the 70 degree weather. There was also a lot of chafing involved too.

  2. I think being injury-free is the main point here. I had a really crummy 10K race a couple weeks ago, and I was down about it for over a week. Now, I can’t run 6.2 miles pain free because I’m injured, and I feel guilty about being so mad at myself for the bad race. Like you I also race a lot (2-3 times a month) and of course not every race will be a PR, but I wish I’d been more thankful for the injury-free finish and just gotten over it rather than being so upset.

    Also, I apologized to the people I was around at that race because I was really upset and said things that were out of character… which is another point. Even if your FINISH TIME is not what you wanted, you can still have a FUN TIME at the after party or just being around people.

  3. You never make excuses Hollie and that is one of the things I love about following you. You always think things through and come up with a logical analysis. I haven’t had too many bad races because I don’t race that frequently ha! BUT I did have an atrocious race in September. I felt awful from step one. The entire time I thought, I am very lucky to be out here and the scenery is beautiful and you have a working, healthy body. That got me through and over it very quickly. Great post. Thanks.

  4. I haven’t experienced this with running since I have yet to actually run my first race, but it definitely happens to me a lot in the winter with snowboarding. It sucks when you really don’t see a clear cut reason, but there are so many factors that play into why we might not perform our best. You’re still an epic runner 🙂

  5. Absolutely, 100% yes!! Sometimes it’s so hard to move on (like after a miserable goal race) but, other times, it’s easier. Either way you do have to find the positive in it, learn from any mistakes made and move on. I usually give myself a day to sulk and then get over it. I also think, if you go INTO the race being ok with whatever the outcome is, you’re setting yourself up for success. Great post Hollie!

  6. I don’t have warm and fuzzy thoughts for the Philly half either… it leaves me wondering if I’ll want to return. After you have a bad race, do you chalk it up to you or do you think the course has something to do with it too? Will you return?

  7. This is a great topic! What I learned through my years of sports psychology is the faster the better. Do not dwell on it and just let it go. Because what happens is. . . the longer you dwell on something the more emotionally ingrained you are in the negative. So then when it comes time for your next race, you will remember the race that didn’t go well and all the negative emotions that went with it, and you will feel more pressure to not have that happen. So, in order to go into the next race without being dragged down by the bad race, it’s best to do a quick review, learn from it, and then move on.

  8. Whenever I have a tough outing, I remind myself I’m doing this *for fun*–i.e. it isn’t my job, I’m not making a living off of it, etc., and that puts it into perspective for me, ha. On a more serious note, though, I reflect on all the training I did–especially the tough workouts–and even though it’s challenging, I remember that one race is not indicative of my overall fitness and progress; there will always be another one.

  9. Oh, the dreaded bad race. I didn’t have a stellar first marathon in terms of the way that I felt at the end, but I still did well overall (time wise, etc), but knew it wasn’t my personal best. I had a great time though and was on a high from it being my first marathon, so I got over it pretty quickly 🙂

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