Reader to reader: Bouncing back from a bad race


No matter how much preparation you’ve done beforehand, sometimes on race-day things just don’t go to plan. But for this week’s questioner, a disappointing performance has left her void of all motivation to continue – can you help her regain her confidence and persuade her to sport her trainers once more?

“I started competing in March this year at the Liverpool Half-Marathon. I was really pleased with a time of 2:06 and felt like a proper runner. I was confident I could do two hours on Sunday at Blackpool as the course was flatter, so was devastated with my time of 2:32. I’m absolutely gutted and thinking about hanging up my trainers... can anyone out there help?” Jennifer Barrow

Your best answers

  • If at first you don’t succeed...
    Just think of it like a bad day at the office - they happen. My missus was gutted for weeks after her (in her mind) poor show at the World Triathlon Champs last year. She underperformed by her standards – even coming 24th (of 50) in the World for her age-group was not enough to console her. She came home and won her next event to make up for it, but she was a pain to live with for weeks – fat buddha
  • ... try, try, try again
    Sign up for another race. It's the best way to get over a disappointment. It'll give you a fresh challenge and make you more determined. – Broado
  • Put the fun back into your runs
    Go out for a couple of watch-free, scenic runs, just for the joy of running. It will help you remember why you enjoy it. Or try going for a run somewhere new. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for being able to run a half-marathon at all. If you're a novice, I bet you couldn't do that at all a few months ago. – OJO

  • Re-channel your energy
    You really should run for the sheer enjoyment of it - for the freedom and health benefits it offers. Getting too hung up on times ruins the fun and you will run better without the stress of running against the clock. When you have a more relaxed approach to running you will probably surprise yourself and run a PB. – kam kunar
  • Throw yourself into something new
    If you're struggling to get motivated, do something different. I had a nightmare Cardiff marathon, but the next 'race' I did was the Sodbury Slog - 9 miles or so of mud, fun and forumites. Again I've struggled since then to get motivated, but I've just entered a sprint triathlon. There's nothing like a fresh challenge to get you going. – SoVeryTired
  • Focus on what you have achieved, not what you haven’t
    It's perfectly understandable to be disappointed, but at the same time try to see the positives. I ran my first marathon (FLM) in April last year and was deliriously happy with my time of 3:58. By October I was hoping to break 3:45, but was quite ill the week of the marathon and had a really rough race - finishing again in 3:58. Since then all I've done is run one personal worst after another - I would give absolutely anything for another sub-4:00 right now. What I'm saying is appreciate your fitness, because situations can change and when they do it can make you realise that what you had before was actually quite good. – MadameO
  • Count your blessings not your bruises
    I get over a bad race by telling myself not to be so self-indulgent and reminding myself that there are lots of peeps with some injury or another who maybe haven't run for months. They would relish the chance to race. – Namaste
  • Re-size your set-back within the bigger picture
    I too had an awful half-marathon result recently - running much slower than I expected after six hard months of training. I was so disappointed, but my trainer said me "it is not the destination, but the journey itself, that is of greater importance". Be proud of your achievement in sticking to your training regime for the race. You are fitter and more experienced than when you started training, despite your disappointment at the end. So many people would not have even contemplated (let alone have completed) the training. Be proud that you completed the race, especially in the heat, and be proud of your ability to 'pick yourself up' after the disappointment. This is your absolute strength. – Petite Oiseau
  • The tortoise and the hare
    Could you be trying too hard? When you are new and enthusiastic it is easy to turn every run into a 'race'. I know that’s what I did! – SFC
  • Cast your mind back to your original goals
    Don’t forget the reasons you got into running in the first place - losing weight, being healthy, feeling better about yourself etc. I don't know many runners who got into running to post a PB every race. That comes when you start pushing yourself further. When you're feeling bad about a race time, just think back to life before you started running and how lucky you are that you have the health to do it. None of us should ever take that for granted. – Petite Oiseau
  • Learn to see the positives among the negative
    It's all part of the rich tapestry of running. It may have been a lack of hydration, incorrect training, excessive performance anxiety, hot temperatures, poor race strategy etc. It's easy to be downcast as a novice when these sorts of thing happen, but it's important experience to get under your belt, and will make you appreciate the good days even more. Good news is you finished in one piece and got a medal. In time you'll come to look back at it as a useful experience and you might even treasure the memory. It's a victory of sorts to even keep on going when everything's going wrong. – Broadsword Calling Danny Boy
  • Think of it as fuel for next time
    Everyone has a PW at something - use it as incentive to improve next time. Also, at the weekend I came across this philosophy - if you're not on for a prize and the race costs a fortune to enter, take your time and get your money's worth! It works for me. You can't do a PB every time you race – Cath.
  • Remember: anyone else would feel the same...
    I agree with all of the above, but I would also add… don't feel bad about feeling bad (if you see what I mean). We invest a lot of time and effort into our preparations, whatever our pace so it's natural to feel disappointment when things go wrong. – XL-Man
  • ... but in time you might think differently
    Believe me, I'm ready to chuck myself into the blender when I have a bad race. However, you can either 1) hang up your trainers, waste three weeks then realise you miss running and come back having missed training or 2) get over it and pick a 10K race somewhere with no time target and a no watch. Give it a couple of days and move on - you won't believe how quickly you forget bad races! – Pugheaven™

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