Four steps to getting past a bad race

Even all time greats sometimes have a bad race

“If you’ve never failed, you’re not trying.”

There is some truth to that quote. If we’re really trying to push our limits, then sometimes we will hit our limits and we will have a bad experience. If you’ve never had a bad race, how close are you to your limits?

What do we do when we have a bad race, though? How should we respond?

In my opinion, we should have a four step approach:

Step 1: Get mad

This may not be what you expected but let’s be honest, it’s a step that we’re probably going to take whether we mention it or not. I prefer to mention it because it is going to happen.

You invested a lot into the race and it didn’t go well. It’s natural to be mad. Don’t try to bottle it up. Be respectful of the people around you. Carry yourself with composure. In private or with a small social circle that gets it, though, let the frustration out so you can move on.

Take some time to be mad at what happened. Not too much time, though. If you can, limit the time to minutes. If not, aim for just hours. Do your best not to let it stretch to days or, worse, weeks or months. If it goes on too long, it moves beyond venting and can be very harmful.

Step 2: Get over it

While it’s incredibly frustrating to invest so much into a race only to have it go bad, it’s not the end of the world. Once your frustration has been vented, move on. The sooner you get to the next steps, the sooner you can find some positive to take from this experience. In the end, that should be the goal.

Step 3: Learn from your experience

As anyone who ran this year’s Boston Marathon can tell you, some factors leading to a bad race are out of our control. However, many factors are at least partially within our control.

Review what went wrong. Did you make mistakes in training? Did you have a flawed race plan? Did you not execute the plan? Is there something else you could have handled better?

Figure these things out. Take some time to review your mistakes, not to dwell on them but to figure out how you will prevent making the same mistakes in the future. Make a plan for how you will do things better next time.

Step 4: Implement the plan

Once you review what went wrong and have come up with a plan to prevent it in the future, commit to the plan. Execute it to the best of your ability to give yourself a better chance at making your next race a good one.

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