What Went Wrong?

Throughout your running life there'll be races that you'll look back on and think, “What the hell happened there?” Here are the answers to a few of those head-scratching scenarios


Posted: 5 May 2002

Throughout your running life there’ll be races that you’ll look back on and think, “What the hell happened there?” Here are the answers to a few of those head-scratching scenarios:

I blew up

The end of the race is in sight, but you feel as if you’re running through porridge and scything through the field backwards. Were you a little over-enthusiastic at the start? Without fail, every race has a group of runners who speed off when the gun goes – and spend the rest of the race slowing down. Don’t get caught up in their excitement. Unless you’re running in the 100m, a controlled, relaxed start won’t do any harm. In fact, as the rest of the field tires you’ll just keep picking up places.

You can also blow up if you haven’t trained properly. If your longest run has been eight miles, don’t be surprised when the wheels fall off at the 15-mile point of a marathon, for instance. For shorter races, plan to run further than the race distance in training.

If you don’t put enough petrol in your car, it’ll conk out before you get home. Your body’s the same, so fuel up – see the other advice on these two pages about how to eat and drink properly before and during your race.

I finished feeling too good

This could be because you’ve taken the previous advice too far. If you started in a controlled, relaxed manner and then eased down for the rest of the race, then you still need to work on your pacing! If that isn’t the case, don’t worry. Feeling great and full of running at the end of a race is an all too rare occurrence, and there’s a good chance that you’re about to run some PBs.

My breathing’s fine, but my legs feel heavy

Check your training log. Even if you’re running marathons, speedwork is vital. Not only will it make you faster, but over time it’ll reduce your production of lactic acid. That’s the stuff that flows through your muscles and causes those heavy legs.

Don’t go overboard with speedwork, though, as overtraining can also contribute to race-day blues. If all of your sessions are eyeballs-out, then come race day, there’s a good chance your legs will let you down just when you need them most. Make sure that you never follow a hard training day with another one, and pencil in some rest – a day or two before the race is ideal.

I’m just not getting any quicker

Improvements tend to happen quickly at first – you can take huge chunks from PBs every few months – but as you get fitter and quicker, the improvements become harder to achieve.

You can’t keep setting big PBs, obviously, but do look for reasons for a slow-down. Maybe you’re not doing enough speedwork. Perhaps you’ve been unable to train – through illness, injury or a heavy workload. Or maybe you’re racing too much, or getting bored by the same distances.

On a different level, there’s nothing we can do about getting older, and few of us can expect to be running the same times in our 50s as we did in our 30s. But you can cheat the ageing process. Age-adjusted times allow the more mature runners among us to compare their most recent times with those achieved in their youth, or of younger ‘rivals’. They’re a great way of keeping your competitive instincts burning.

Before the gun went, I just knew I was going to have a bad race

It’s surprisingly easy to psych yourself out of a race before you’ve even started. Worrying about how you’ll feel at the halfway point, whether the guy in the fancy shoes will beat you, or if you’ve left the gas on, can all have a negative impact on your performance. But you can beat race-ruining nerves. Firstly, make sure you’ve done the training. If you know that you’ve done the hard work, you can be confident going into a race. Secondly, get race experience. The more races you enter, the more accustomed to racing you’ll become, and this will help calm your nerves and boost your confidence. Finally, create a pre-race routine – it could be a set warm-up, or listening to a favourite album on your CD player. Doing the same thing before each race will help you relax, and know that you’re fully prepared.

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Discuss this article

Did the vale of pewsey half marathon on (26/08/07) was on for a very good time of 1 hour 30ish then all went wrong,legs went heavy and ended up doing my worse time.Been going over and over what might of happened,still not come up with no answers as have been training well can anyone help
Posted: 28/08/2007 at 16:37

You probably started too quickly for your level of fitness or maybe you weren't hydrated enough.

JJ


Posted: 28/08/2007 at 17:33

im pretty shore i was hydrated enough,was thinking it might be down to going of to fast.i trained on the thursday then done no training till i did the rase may be i should of gone out before the race


Posted: 28/08/2007 at 17:39

Was your training sufficient to warrant a 1:30? Or was this a PB attempt and you've not managed 1:30 before? I remember last year I ran a 1:37 and felt great at the end, that I could've run a lot faster, so two weeks later I tried to push harder and was on track for a 1:35, but then it all went wrong and I ended up clocking a personal worst of 1:42!

Not to say your circumstances were/are the same as mine, just thought i'd share my experience. As for the real reason, who knows! Could easily be a few small things that weren't quite spot on adding up to result in a bad run

Have faith though! I'm sure you'll bounce back


Posted: 28/08/2007 at 21:38

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