6 Reasons Bad Races Make Great Runners

Don't fret your worst races—those ones are actually the performances that make you great in the end. Amiright?


Published with permission from Laura Norris, blogger at This Runner’s Recipes. Check out her site for delicious food options!

If my running in 2015 had a uniting theme, it was bad races. I fell short of all of my time goals. I went out too fast in a half marathon and later hit a wall. During my marathon, I suffered from GI distress and watched my BQ goal slip out of sight.

But I do not regret any of these races; in fact, I’m grateful for them. Why?

Recently, thanks to what these disappointing finish times and difficult races taught me, I finally broke the 1:40 barrier and ran a 5-minute PR of 1:38:40. Disappointing races have made me a better runner, and they can for you as well. Here’s why in six reasons:

1. Failure motivates you to try harder. If you want to achieve a big goal, just wait until you miss that goal. You’ll become even more hungry for success and more determined to work hard. Missed goals spark the fire that keeps you persevering through all those hard runs and inspires you to push harder on a race day. Think of Amy Cragg—she dropped out of the 2015 Boston Marathon, which was clearly not the outcome she anticipated. She used her DNF as motivation and it clearly paid off when she won the Women’s Olympic Trials Marathon.

2. You experiment with new workouts and different methods of training. One bad race may not require you to alter your training, particularly if you can identify the cause of the problem in fueling, hydration or the unpredictable weather. But if you struggle with pacing or frequently fall short of your time goals, it may be time to find a new training plan or hire a running coach. Examine your training and race strategy to determine areas for improvement. If anything, your body might need a new stimulus to break out of a racing plateau.

3. You learn to believe in your ability to succeed. Yes, failure can cause low confidence in your abilities and self doubt, but only if you permit it to have such power over your mind. Success begins with belief in yourself, your potential and your abilities. More likely than not, a bad race happened because you surrendered to self doubt at some point. You thought you couldn’t hold onto your goal pace any longer or you slowed down when a competitor passed you. A bad race will teach you not to let self doubt rule you.

4. You appreciate good races more. Those races where you endure GI distress, hit the wall or everything just hurts make the races where everything goes according to plan all the more amazing. Bad races teach you to celebrates those good races, even if you didn’t PR. You will also come realize that those bad races really aren’t so bad. Unless you ended up severely sick or injured, there’s silver lining in any bad race.

5. Achieving your goals becomes even more meaningful. When you miss a goal because of a bad race, you will quickly discover that your desire to achieve that goal has only increased. A disappointing race separates meaningful goals from ones that you were not completely invested in. Disappointment in a missed goal shows that your goal means something to you and is not just an arbitrary number on the clock. And when you finally cross the finish line and see your goal time on the clock? You will cherish it that much more because of how much you poured your heart and soul into your training and the race.

6. You learn that running is about so much more than finish times. When you finally do achieve your big PR or BQ, you’ll realize that goals aren’t always about the end result. More often than not, what will matter to you the most is the journey to your goal. Miles truly change you.

Of course, you should celebrate your good races and try your best no matter what the circumstances. But there’s no reason to let a bad race discourage you from pursuing your goals; rather, view them as a stepping stone on your way to a PR.