Advice to Bounce Back from a Bad Race

Contributed by Briana Ottinger, a 2017 Ambassador for the Berkeley Half Marathon. 

I’ve been a runner for over 6 years and in that time I have completed several 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons and triathlons. I’ve had races go well, finishing with shiny PRs and races not go so well, even ending up in the ER after a race back in 2015.

I find that it’s the races that don’t go as planned that end up being the moments I use to motivate me in training. While there are a million reasons a race can not go as planned from not hitting a personal best, bad weather, injuries, dehydration or poor planning, it’s often difficult to pinpoint just one reason and that can end up causing more stress.

If you’re coming off a bad race, these tips should help you bounce back and finish strong on race day:

  1. It’s ok to be upset: You’re race didn’t go how you wanted, maybe you finished slower than you wanted, had to drop out because of an injury or the race was cut short or cancelled because of weather. Wallow for a day or two and then it’s time to pick yourself up and move on.
  2. Be honest and kind to yourself: Reflect on your training, did you log all the miles you needed to succeed? Did you follow the race plan you set up? How were you feeling? Did you get enough sleep? Finally make note of something positive that happened and something that did go well.
  3. Reflect on why you run: Do you run because it makes you feel happier or healthier or stronger? Remembering why you started running in the first place can help take the sting out of a bad race.
  4. Just keep running: On your next run head out without your watch, headphones and maybe even your phone. Get lost in your thoughts and enjoy the scenery around you without worrying about numbers, paces, or responding to emails.
  5. Sign up for another race: Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to rest, recover, reflect and train in between. Sometimes the best way to put a bad race behind you is having a new goal and race to train for.

A bad race is bound to happen if you do enough races, and there will likely be plenty more good experiences in the future. Learning how to roll with the punches can make you a stronger runner. In my opinion, any day that you get to wake up and run is a great day, which is why I keep lacing up my shoes day after day.

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