Two Unconventional Ways to Defeat the Post Race Blues

Susan Donnelly at Javelina 100

In 2015, I ran three 100-mile races on three consecutive weekends.

Javelina 100, Ozark 100, and Tunnel Hill 100.

It was so much fun! I’d never tried three in a row so it was a real high to challenge myself that big…and get it done.

But a few days after Tunnel Hill, I had a letdown. I'd gotten into this groove and was mentally, emotionally, and spiritually excited about running another the next weekend...except there wasn’t one. 

That groove - created by the structure of packing, travel, and recovery, and driven by the motivation of the goal - ended.

I felt deflated and a bit lost.

I knew I could have done more in a row if I’d set it up, and wished I had. Coming back to my “real life” routine was a letdown. 

Classic post race blues. 

Conventional advice about the blues is to sign up for another race - something, anything, quick! - treat yourself to pretty new shoes, run with a group for motivation, take some undefined amount of time off, tough it out, and even...don’t aim so high next time so your blues won’t be as bad (yes, honest!).

Unfortunately, most of these are coping strategies to muddle you through, once you’re in it.

I’d rather help you prevent it.

So here are two prevention strategies - one to apply before the race, and one after.

BEFORE - Focus on the process of training for and running the race instead of the end product.

A lot of runners get post-race blues because they expect life to be better when they achieve the goal, they reached it but don’t feel they deserve it, or they didn’t even reach their goal. 

Goal, goal, goal. Notice the focus is all about the external, end result, and nothing about the inner work it took to get there.

If you flip that around to see all the strength, know-how, and self-confidence you’re building on the way to the goal - the process work - as the real reward, life is better regardless of the outcome.

The product - a finish - is just a one-time thing you accomplished with it all. The process work is there for you always, in other races and life circumstances. 

A finish doesn’t make you strong - the work and believing you put in to make it happen does.

AFTER - Have a plan.


Have a plan for what you’re going to do after the big race.

Part of what’s disturbing about the post race blues is the unexpectedness of it. Like getting the flu.

You worry it worse - Something’s wrong! I must get back to running ASAP or else I will...gain weight, get out of shape, lose my mojo forever! You can even get in a cycle where you beat yourself up for having the blues. None of which helps.

But it’s likely after a big race, so if you actually anticipate and plan for it, you’re set. 

It’s really simple.

First, decide ahead of the race what you want to prioritize and do after the race, like spend time with family, finish postponed household tasks, or practice another sport.

And decide how long you'll do it. A week? A month?

In my case, I did fine on the before, but suffered with the after part. Without a plan, I wasted a lot of time getting back.

Don't let the post-race blues get you down.

Use these strategies so you don’t have to worry about aiming as high as you want, every time.

Susan Donnelly’s signature

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