How to Bounce Back from a Bad Race

How to Bounce back from a bad race

Bouncing back from a bad race is tough! The week before last I had a bad running race at the Phillies 5k. While yes, you can argue it was windy, my disappointing race wasn’t because of that.  Honestly, it wasn’t my day and these things happen.

While it stinks, I race so frequently there is no point to let one bad race ruin my day. When you’re an experienced runner you’ll learn that every race is a learning experience: the good and bad.  In fact, you’ll probably learn more from a frustrating race experience.

How to Bounce back from a bad race

So How Can You Bounce Back from a Bad Race? 

Like the movie, Frozen, let it go…

Every athlete has both good days and bad days.

How to Bounce Back from a Bad Race Tip 1: Find the Positives:

Every running race has a silver lining. Bouncing back from a race means finding those. When I  crossed the finish line at the Phillies 5k, the first thing I thought was: Wow I felt awful. Then I quickly remembered I’m injury-free.  The entire race was miserable, my mental spot was not great, but I finished healthy.

After cooling down, I caught up with one of my closest friends and still hung out. I saw many locals and chatted for a while. They asked how the race went, and I said: “awful it wasn’t my day for running, but it’s just running”.

Running isn’t my job; it’s a hobby.  If a hobby stresses you out or causes you misery, it’s time to find a new one. Sure, I won’t always “love running” but instead of dwelling on a bad race, look for the good.

It’s important to look at the silver line and positives of your running race:

Did you finish healthy and injury free?  Could you smile afterward and have a good day? 

How to Bounce Back from a Bad Race Tip 2: Reflect so you can “Get Over” your Bad Running Race:

Immediately after the 5k, I chalked it up to being “a bad race”.

Now that I’ve sat back, reflected and recovered from a bad race, I know there are plenty of reasons the 5k was not a great race for me. You’ll never move on and get over your bad running race if you dwell on it.

My body was still tired from the weekend prior. I knew going into the race my body didn’t feel good. I haven’t eaten or slept well, and I’ve increased speed training and racing. Plus, I ran a half marathon the weekend prior. I’ve done it a dozen times, but I’ve always been more fit.

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.  This is a key for bouncing back from a bad race. You can make adjustments to your training, nutrition, or sleep patterns.

With distance running, there is always another race. There are always more long runs. Marathon training is a long distance to cover and it’s important to also look back at training.

How to Bounce Back from a Bad Race Tip 3: 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 with training. Take time to recover and relax. Recovery is important to bouncing back from a bad race.

Then set your sights on running a PR, new time goal, or maybe a new event altogether.  Maybe you need a change in training plans, training cycles or a new running coach.

Maybe a marathon burned you out…

Or maybe you want to run longer races…

How to Bounce Back from a Bad Race Tip 4:  Find something to get excited and refocused about! 

Remember there are many race days to come. For me personally, I have run many races over the next two months. While I’m not looking for magical redemption, I’m looking forward to chipping away my time and getting back into better fitness.


Bouncing back from a bad race is not as bad or scary as it seems. By reflecting, refocusing, and changing your mindset you’ll be chasing a new goal or dream soon. As runners, we all have these races but we all have the good ones too!

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Questions for you:

How do you get over a bad race? Do you bounce back quickly? 

What has been your least enjoyable race?


  1. There are usually a number of reasons that contribute to a bad race, but it’s even more disappointing when you’ve been following a training plan diligently and hoping for a PR. That happened to me last fall. I was training hard for a 10k PR and messed it all up in the last week before the race. Then a bunch of things went wrong during the race, and I had to consciously re-frame my mind to focus on only the positive aspects of the race

  2. It’s really hard when you can’t figure out WHY a race went bad! My terrible marathon in December was like that – no real reason for my crash and burn. But then, I guess it did make me recheck my iron, and at least it lead me to correct that! So that’s a positive!

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