A Constructive Response to a “Bad” Race

It is unavoidable.  Not every race, not every run, will be perfect.  But imperfection does not mean disastrous. And even disastrous does not mean world-bending or going down the path of “oh my goodness I’m so bad at this, why do I even do this, that was horrible, I totally blew it and ate way too many doughnuts after the race because I was upset.”

The truth about races are that they are just another data point, just another blip on the radar.  Granted, they are a more significant one than any training exercise, but let’s keep things in perspective.  First off, if you are having a fantastic 3-month buildup before a race, nail 85 out of those 100 days, and race day isn’t perfect, that’s still 85 out of 100.  Most people will take those odds any day of the week. Yes, perhaps the preparation can be revisited to perhaps gain a better outcome the next time around, and that brings us to point number two.  Learning is fun.

As we learn as 5-year olds, the best way to learn is via mistakes or tough situations.  How are you certainly never going to touch boiling water again? By touching it after mom repeatedly tells you not to go near the stove.  How are you going to learn not to run that last session too hard before race day again? By hitting it way too hard and being tired for the race. It doesn’t have to be a training mistake we learn from, it may be a nutrition mistake a mental perspective mistake or even something else. One of the wonderful things about this sport is enjoying how we grow and mature throughout the process of training and competing. Every runner can tell you something that they have learned through trial and error about what works or doesn’t work for them.

The last point is to observe the 20-minute rule.  It is ok to be disappointed with a rough race, but not ok to continue to pause the process well after its completion.  Give yourself twenty minutes to cope with it, and be on your merry way to the next one with a better frame of mind. It is however, important to give yourself some time to be upset, rather than just skirt by your feelings and disappointments like they never existed if it was an event that meant something to you.  It is much better to let it out for immediately and move on with a constructive mindset, than keep any frustration bottled up to hamper the next race too. One of the best qualities of being a competitor is having “short term memory.” Being able to let go of the hard moments and move on to what is next is key for a positive mindset moving forward. It doesn’t mean we forget what we learn, but it means we don’t let “bad days” overwhelm us.

In summary: 

1)      Keep perspective and have a big picture mindset

2)      Learning is good, fun and necessary for future growth

3)      Observe the 20-minute rule and practice short term memory


In the words of Bob Ross,

“We don’t make mistakes, we just make happy little accidents.”


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I've been running since April of 2011, and I got into it mostly for weight loss purposes.  I quickly realized that I loved running and became interested in getting better and setting goals.  Each season brings different challenges, and I like being coached by people that coach me based on my personal goals, rather than a generic website that makes us all one type of runner.  RunningLane is perfect for runners seeking specific training tailored to their own personal goals.