What To Do When A Race or Training Run Doesn’t Go Well

“Successful People Don’t Fear Failure, But Understand That It’s Necessary to Learn and Grow From.” – Robert Kiyosaki

Hello Runners,

I hope your running is going well.

As I mentioned in the last post, I did a 5k during Memorial Day weekend. It was a nice, low-key 5k. There were about 20-30 runners. Certainly no frills, but it was a free 5k and you got your time at the end. Plus, it offered the opportunity to run in a competitive environment (or non-competitive environment, if you wanted) with other runners. I mainly used it for some variety in my training and as a measure of my aerobic fitness early in my marathon training.

I certainly enjoyed the event, and it’s nice to have this option only 5 miles from my house every Saturday.

I had a couple of goals for this race, which I did not achieve. This certainly will happen at some point during our races or training runs. When this happens with runners I coach, we discuss what happened and how to move forward.

So, instead of beating ourselves up for less than expected results, I recommend that you learn from your performances that didn’t go as well as you’d hoped. However, before we focus on this, I recommend considering the positives from the race or training run, and asking yourself, “what did go well?” I’m sure you will be able to find some silver lining.

After you have identified the positives, I recommend taking some time to reflect upon what didn’t go well and why that might have been. If you could do the race or training run all over again, what would you do differently? Was it not being properly hydrated or fueled? Did you make a bad food choice the morning off or night before? Maybe you realize that you need to improve your fitness and/or speed and can focus on this more.

Here are a few things that I learned from my 5k that might help you:

Pacing

One of the biggest challenges with races is getting caught up in the race environment and what other runners are doing. I’m certainly guilty of this, and it happened to me for this particular 5k. I started at the front and within the first minute I was in third and wanted to win the race. I went out too fast in the first mile and got distracted from my goals, which included a negative split (running second have faster than the first have). As a result of going out too fast in the first mile, I had to slow my pace in the second mile. I was able to use self-talk to push myself through and actually ran the third mile faster than the second, but I didn’t achieve my goal of a negative split. Now, in a 5k, this wasn’t a significant issue because the race is short enough that I only had to struggle for a short time. This same approach would not work well on marathon day! So, this is something I need to be careful of. A friend of mine actually did go out too fast in a recent marathon, and unfortunately for him, the last 11 miles were a struggle, and the result was disappointing.

Know the Course As Best As You Can

Beware that there may not be race volunteers at every turn and some turns may not be well marked. This was the case during my 5k. Although most of the course was straightforward, there was some confusion that I and another runner had shortly after the first mile. Although it didn’t cost a lot of time, it did cost some time, and certainly at that point my chance of winning the race was gone. You should also be familiar with the race profile and know when and approximately how long and steep the hills are, if there are any.

Improve Fitness

Certainly this race was a good assessment of my fitness, and made me more aware of the difficulty in breaking three hours is a marathon. Yes, I was able to run a slightly faster than goal marathon pace for this 5k, but it’s a 5k, not a marathon! Therefore, I will need to be consistent with all of my remaining training, including all of my runs and other aspects of my training that support my running, including strengthening exercises and cooldowns, so that I can get the most out of my runs.

Adjustments to Running Form

Something else I’ve thought about are any adjustments to my running form that might help me improve my efficiency and speed. One thing I have been working on for a while, is incorporating more forward lean. After my 5k, I decided to incorporate a drill in my dynamic warm-up to make this adjustment more natural. For those of you who are intermediate or advanced runners and consistently incorporate core strengthening into your training, I recommend incorporating a slight forward lean, from the ankles, into your running form. You can practice this during your dynamic warm-up for 30-60 seconds, until it becomes natural:

  • Stand perpendicular to a full-length mirror, so that you can view your body position from the side
  • Engage the core muscles to stand erect
  • Slowly lean forward from the ankles, until the point in which you fall forward
  • While doing so, make sure that your body is in one plane, and that you are not leaning from the waist or head and neck
  • While you are leaning forward, imagine yourself being pulled up and forward by the top of your shirt. This cue will help you keep the core muscles engaged.
  • Once you start to fall forward, catch yourself and return to the starting position
  • Repeat

When you are running, you should lean from the ankles just to the point where you start to fall forward. Now you have gravity helping to pull you forward, thus you don’t have to work as hard. This is a key component to chi running and is one reason why chi running is effective. However, make sure the lean is coming from the ankles and not waist, neck, etc.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Also, if you feel anyone can benefit from this post, please share it.

Your friend and coach,

Brian