Make a Bad Run Better

Susan Donnelly having a bit of bad run at Moab 200 Mile race.

On Tuesday evenings, I used to run with a bunch of trail running friends.

We started the same 8-mile route together as a group, and slowly scattered over the first mile or so into faster and slower groupings. We all rejoined in the parking lot and hung out after. It was great fun.

I could always keep up, usually in the lead bunch if I wanted to.

But once in a long while, I couldn’t.

One of these times was particularly bad. From the first moment, struggled to keep up. I felt like I was racing all out but I kept drifting back. No matter how hard I tried, I trailed behind the end group to the point that I lost sight of them all. Eventually, I couldn’t even hear them.

All by myself.

I was so frustrated and angry at myself, with a good dose of self pity, that I wanted to cry.

And I’m not alone. I see glum, angry reports of bad runs all the time on social media.

Why do runs like this seem so devastatingly bad?

I think we unconsciously expect all our runs to go at least averagely well and when one doesn’t, our unsupervised minds make it mean all kinds of horrible things about us and our chance of success at the next race.

Like “I suck!” 

“I can’t finish that stupid race.” 

Or, “I’m not a real ultrarunner!”

All of which feel crappy. 

Then you think the crappy thoughts over and over. Then they kill your mojo. Then you don’t want to get out the door for tomorrow's run. Then you spiral into cycle where you avoid runs, get out of shape, and end up with more bad runs that serve to further confirm that you do, indeed, suck. 

When the truth is, it was just a run that didn’t go as expected.

Sometimes there's a cause - like tired legs from the last race - that you can pinpoint and fix.

Most of the time, though, it's not a sign. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure and it doesn’t mean anything awful about your value, worth or character. 

It's simply part of the process we signed up for when we started running. There will be good runs and bad.

The bad runs, even the epically bad ones, are temporary and will pass. The sooner you get out for tomorrow's run and the next day's, the sooner you get back to great runs.

So the next time you have a bad run, look for solutions, not stories.

And get out the door and closer to a good run again tomorrow.

Signature favorite.png

P.S. - If you’re tired of being at the mercy of your negative thoughts, email me here for a free 30-minute consult call to see how coaching the 80% that is the mental part of ultrarunning can change your results for the better!