How to Come Back from a ‘Bad’ Race

We all have amazing races where all the hard work comes together, we feel great and things just click. Those are the races we all dream about.

Most of us have also had one of those races where things don’t go to plan. Either the weather, our stomach, undertrained/overtrained, poor race strategy, fueling or we have just one of those days.

Three weeks on from the Edinburgh Marathon (read my race recap here) and I still struggle to think clearly about it. I can’t help but think of the whole race as a failure, despite the fact that I ran a 5 minute PB. But I’m trying to use the following to use it as a springboard for my next race/goal.

Learn something (or a lot!)-> Look back at the race and critically evaluate what went well and what could have been done better. A bad race could highlight your weaknesses, exposing areas that you neglected – perhaps your strength work, fueling, pacing…whatever it is, work on it, develop, grow.

With hindsight, looking at the splits from the first half of the race, (and getting some feedback from others), I do think I went out too fast. The course is downhill for the first 10K, but running a 7.22 second mile was not smart. I’ve positive split too many marathons to know that it isn’t clever not to leave enough in the tank to get to that finish line.

I was also disappointed with my own mental strength during the latter stages of the race. At mile 18ish I stepped in a hole (during a trail section), and honestly, for a few minutes, wished that I’d twisted my ankle so that I could stop running. Wanted to step off the course injured. When I could feel my goal slipping away, I wanted so badly to quit. Having the backup goal of Chicago and London qualification kept me pushing even when I felt I had nothing left.

Recover -> It can be tempting to start working right away on the next goal, the next race, trying to make up for the bad one. Unless it was a 5K, you can’t just race hard again the following weekend. You need to give your body, and your mind recover, reset, recharge before ‘coming back’.

It takes time to process the feelings, it’s OK to grieve, to feel sad, disappointed, angry. You need to give yourself time… Not many people will get why you’re (especially if you run a PB/PR anyway but miss your main goal).

Use it as motivation -> Need some extra fire to work harder, train smarter or fight dirtier for the next race? Use the disappointment to fuel that fire.

After missing out on my sub 4 goal in the Paris Marathon, I put everything into training for the Berlin Marathon 5 months later. I didn’t miss a workout. And ran a 10 minute PB.

Do something new -> Perhaps that’s adding in more miles, strength work or stretch sessions. Or cross training (currently the swimming and cycling is proving to be the perfect post-marathon training to push myself, learn something new and enjoying the fact that you make progress far more quickly as a beginner!)

Turn off the watch for a while -> while training we focus so much on the miles, on the paces, on the reps that the fun of running can be lost somewhat by the end of a marathon cycle. Take off the watch (or at least turn the screen over!), run with friends, take part in local events and enjoy yourself!

Take advice from those wiser than you-> I know a lot of runners whose families/friends don’t get it. They’re told to calm down, that it’s only a race. It’s only running. And whilst sometimes that is actually what you need to hear. Other times you want sympathy, advice, tips for next time. There are a lot of people out there with more race/running/life experience than you/me, listen to their advice (even if it can be hard to hear).

I am taking on board is the fact that I’ve been spoiled in previous races I’ve done. I am aware that all of the marathons I’ve done prior to Edinburgh have been BIG races and therefore I have gotten used to some of the luxuries that go with that, like pacers and post-race massages! I had (wrongly) assumed that Edinburgh, as a sell-out big city race would have these – and that’s on me.

Additionally, although I think I could have run a sub 3.30 if all the stars aligned, it was a big jump from 3.44 to sub 3.30. Probably too big of a jump.

What I found hardest to deal with was the negative messages I received after Edinburgh, both on instagram (DM’s and on feed posts) but also on a snarking website. When people say/write the every worst things that you feel about yourself anyway, it reaffirms all the negative thoughts in your head.

(I don’t want this to come across as a ‘woe is me’ but the negativity has definitely impacted my feelings on Edinburgh and processing coming back from it. I always try to be 100% honest on here and I didn’t feel like I could write this post without mentioning it).

10 Comments

  1. Aine
    16th June 2019 / 9:11 pm

    I would love to know how to deal with the mental aspects of races, and if you have done anything that has helped with this. I really struggle to perform on race day- nerves just always seem to get the better of me. Also, in terms of the negative comments I understand that they are difficult to deal with, but I also think they (unfortunately) seem to come with the territory of blog success. Sort of like those people who can’t help but post a scathing yelp review for a meal/service…. what I can find really offputting is when bloggers stoop down and get nasty back. Being gracious/ rising above it goes such a long way, and the comments say so much more about the person writing them than the post author.

    • charlotte
      Author
      16th June 2019 / 9:17 pm

      I agree – it’s so hard! Tina Muir had a great podcast series a couple of weeks ago that is worth a listen. I’m also going to try to put together some resources (from people much more intelligent than me!) in a blog. And yes, kill them with kindness is always the best approach in my opinion, but so hard not to feel hurt by them xx

  2. W.Purves.
    16th June 2019 / 9:12 pm

    Sorry to hear about the negativity you deserve better. G.

    • charlotte
      Author
      16th June 2019 / 9:17 pm

      I think you might be biased, but thanks xx

  3. Rosie
    16th June 2019 / 9:45 pm

    I really am sorry and shocked to hear that you received negative comments. I don’t know what’s wrong with some people. You’re sharing your journey honestly and with humour and you also say and cover a lot that helps others. Best of luck with the Ironman training, you inspire me every day.

  4. Simona
    16th June 2019 / 10:30 pm

    Such a pity to hear that you received bad comments online after the race. I’ve been following you for a few years now and you are a true inspiration for determination and working hard to achieve a goal. I think you’ve done an amazing job at the race as well as training for it and this post is a good example how you are learning from the whole experience to improve the next time. Please don’t let this negativity stop you sharing your journey as rest assured that it helps other people (like me) on theirs!

  5. Hannah Godwin
    17th June 2019 / 9:28 am

    Sounds like you’re taking a really mature approach to your disappointment, well done! – though like you said, you’re allowed to feel upset when the BQ has been such a major target in your life for a long time, it just shows how much you care about your goal. Perhaps being so close almost makes it feel worse, because you’re close enough to know that it’s definitely possible so your mind is saying you should have been able to do something more on the day. But sometimes the stars just don’t align, and it’s not your fault. Think of this PB as a pre-Boston qualification flag in the sand! Next time you’ll zoom past it. Finally, it’s probably easier said than done, but try not to dwell on the trolls. Think how empty and sad their lives must be if they can only get their thrills by tearing others down.

  6. Jackie
    17th June 2019 / 2:39 pm

    You weren’t feeling it, but you did it. You stayed pushing to do your best when things weren’t going your way, when you wanted to quit. You drew up the strength you needed. That takes incredible mental toughness: the ability to overcome your own feelings when you’re tired and straining physically, and think you’re not going to get the outcome you wanted, and still do your best. Now you know yourself, and you’ll enter every race stronger. You’re a competitor, and I admire that.

  7. 18th June 2019 / 3:53 pm

    While I think social media is wonderful in general, I agree with you that it inspires some completely unnecessary negativity. For those who want to pick a fight, it’s too easy to become a keyboard warrior vs just not commenting.
    This is a really helpful post, all of the tips work, even if not for a given person or race. Thanks!

  8. W. Purves
    19th June 2019 / 11:01 am

    Bank balance must have taken a big hit! Hope that you get through Ascot
    police! G