As a runner that is trying to improve there is nothing worse than a bad training session or a bad race. This is exactly what happened to me this past weekend. I was participating in a 15k race where prizes are awarded not based on who finishes first, rather to those who are able to most closely predict their finishing time. I missed my predicted time by just over three minutes and at first I was ok, however, I then realized that the result was over a minute and a half slower than my slowest time at that distance. I was not happy. Most of us have been there at one point or another and the question is what do we do next.
I believe the first step is to look back at the race and really focus on the positives. In my case, I was out running 9.3 miles at 9:30 on a Sunday morning, instead of sleeping in or going out to breakfast. I was able to complete the distance without walking considering this was the furthest I had run since August. Plus, the course did not have any mile markers and wearing a watch was not allowed. It really is amazing how much you rely on this information as you run. I know that not hitting a goal or having a bad run can be tough, but it is important to focus on the positives, you are out there, training, competing, and being healthy. At the end of the day, running is more important than how fast (unless you are getting paid) and very few outsiders know the difference. So step one to feeling better is to focus on the positives!
The next step is to look deeper at the race/run and determine what went wrong? What could you have done different? There are a number of things to consider including, weather, training, race execution, hydration, injury, or distance. For me, I had not run more than 7.5 miles; there were also long stretches into the wind, which was not bad until I hit that 7.5 mile mark which also included a stretch into the wind, which made it worse. It is important to be honest and not make excuses. Once we have a good idea as to what went wrong, we can take this knowledge and refocus training as we go forward.
I find that a disappointing result can be a great motivator. For me, this was the first week of my training for a half marathon in January and rolling into the training for the marathon I will run in May, and the result really lit a fire under me. I still have 10 weeks until the half marathon and I know that I am going to need to push myself in the training to get where I want to be. It is like in other sports where they reference “bulletin board material”, a bad run can be your own “bulletin board material” to inspire you when you need it. This also gives you the chance to tweak your training by maybe adding more speed work, taking it easier on easy days, improving nutrition, adding more long runs, or adding some weight training. We all need a little extra motivation to push harder from time to time.
Some people say that if you do not hit a goal then you need to rethink your goal. I say NO, there may be a time for that only if you can honestly look in the mirror and know you gave it your all. If not, I say keep working towards that goal.
Finally, race again soon (assuming proper rest and training time), there is no better way to make that bad feeling go away. For me, I will be running a Turkey Trot (5 miles) on Thanksgiving and a 5k in early December. This is all in preparation for the half marathon and testing my ability along the way. It is important to know that everyone has a bad race/run from time to time, what is important is to learn from it, refocus, and get back out there.