When a race doesn’t go as expected, it can be easy to jump to conclusions about what happened and what to do next. Some runners might feel as though they didn’t do enough in training and want to ramp up their next cycle to try to squeeze any extra seconds they can out of their legs.
Other runners might feel their disappointment should just lead to their retirement in racing; they feel their hard work didn’t equate to their performance and it is sign to just give up.
It’s normal to feel the full spectrum of emotions following a race that you are disappointed in. Experienced runners should know that it is all part of the training and racing process. How can you best deal with a race that didn’t meet your expectations?
Some runners will feel the natural inclination to fight. They will want to hop right back into a training cycle to fight for a better time. Unfortunately, while their minds are raring to go, their bodies still need that important recovery time after the race.
Regardless of the outcome, have a plan following the week(s) after the race and stick with it. Arrange for dinner with friends, catch up on movies you wanted to see, or even plan a vacation following a big race.
Assess, don’t obsess
It’s often is easy to pinpoint all the things that you feel like you did wrong in a race when it doesn’t go as planned. But try to look at the things that went right too.
You’ll want to make sure to take note of even the smallest things that can be used for future races. Just like you can learn from mistakes, you can you learn from all the things you did correctly.
Look ahead, not behind
Take 24-48 hours and throw yourself a pity party. But then don’t dwell on the whats ifs and start looking ahead as much as possible. Choose a new goal and work on how you will execute your new plan.
Assuming you are taking some time off to recover, it is a good time to explore all of your options for your next race.
Race for fun
Distance runners often find themselves racing only to PR or chase down new goal times and forget about just running for fun. After a less-than-stellar goal race, going out for a few fun miles at a local 5K can often be a great way to help remember why racing can be fun too.
Find a new goal
If your heart just isn’t in chasing the same goal right away, look for something else to incentivize yourself. Maybe it is completing a race with no walk breaks. Maybe it is helping a friend starting a running program.
Maybe it is focusing on a new distance. Stepping away from your main goal for a bit can help you feel refreshed for the next time you go after it.