Every athlete has bad days, but they become better athletes by learning from their mistakes and moving on. Whether from injury or things just not working together, bad race days happen to good runners, they happen to the best runners. Olympian runners, even. It’s unfortunate, but it’s one of those truths that all runners must accept. Eventually.
It isn’t the missteps that define you, it’s how you recover. While it’s perfectly fine to feel disappointed, it can be easy to overanalyze and let the past event consume you. Here are a few things we do to help us recovery from a disappointing race.
This does sounds dramatic, but if you’ve already been there, you know. You kind of are grieving. You’re grieving for your expectations, or your time and effort training just for a less than expected result, or you’re grieving because “why you?”. It’s understandable to feel down after a disappointment. But don’t for a second consider all time and effort you put into training a wash. Think about where you are and where you were a year ago. Of course, race day is probably the worst day to have a bad run, but it does happen. We survive.
Might be tough to see in the hours immediately following the unexpected outcome, but there’s always a positive. One you can always rely on from any event is what you learned. Every race is an opportunity to learn, and learning is always a positive. Even if you learned something that’s not such a good thing, like you take disappointment really really hard, it’s an opportunity to grow both as a runner and a person.
Was your training consistent? Did you follow a proper sleep and nutrition regimen? Did you strength train, hydrate enough, and balance train? Were you bored with your routes? Did you overtrain? Were you mentally tough enough? Did you set the right goals or were your expectations too high? So many questions, but going back through the details can help you figure out where improvements need to be made.
It’s helpful to keep a running journal during training, makes it easier to recall actions that may have contributed to your lackluster performance.
Maybe another attempt at the same distance if you need personal redemption (no one’s judging) or focus on a new, completely different challenge. It shouldn’t feel forced, but listen to what your body is telling you. If the breakdown occurred because of overtraining, maybe back off for a few weeks and let the fog clear before mapping out the immediate future.
Setting proper goals and focusing on achieving them is one surefire way to keep moving forward. It’s the only way you’re going to improve and grow as a runner, both physically and mentally. The sport gives you an opportunity to have a good day just about every day. Sometimes things are going to be out of your control, but how you handle them is something you can control. Make the best choice you can.
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