Ask The Elites: How Do You Bounce Back After A Bad Race?

Everyone has bad days—even elites. Here's how they work to overcome them.

shutterstock_256816975 (1)

*Courtesy of

We recently caught up with Desi Linden, the fourth-place finisher at April’s Boston Marathon, John Honerkamp, a coach for the New York Road Runners, and Mike Wardian, a sub-2:20 marathoner and former national champion at the 50K and 100K distances, and got their top tips for bouncing back after a bad race or tough workout. 

Desi Linden: Bad races and workouts stink. They point out flaws in fitness and/or preparation, but they are part of the process and can serve as some of the biggest learning lessons. I try and recognize what went wrong and how I can adjust in the future to make myself better. The biggest mistake I can make with a bad race is to not learn from it. I use it as an opportunity to improve myself and then move on—it’s just one race. I also remind myself that just because I didn’t get the result I wanted doesn’t mean I didn’t make improvements from the training.

Related: How A Top Marathoner Fuels For A Race

John Honerkamp: There is that expression, “You’re only as good as your last race.” Luckily for most of us, we can run another race the next week, or a workout the next day or two. However, if you’re a marathoner, then you’d have to wait 4-12 months to race again. That can be tough. If I have a bad race or workout I try to figure out the cause: Was it too hot? Did I sleep enough this week? Did I run a poor tactical race? Did I go out to fast? There are many things to look at. If you can pinpoint the culprit, fix it and move on. [The] key is not dwelling on it. There will be other bad days. Let’s just have more good days than bad days. If a runner has a bad long run in their marathon training, I spin it around and say your chances of having a bad day on race day are lower.

Related: 3 Tips For Overcoming A Bad Race

Mike Wardian: I look at each bad race or bad workout as a step toward getting better and don’t get too hung up on it. I feel like you have to take what you did wrong, process it, learn from it, try to make sure it doesn’t happen again and then let it go. That said, I like to use those races as fuel for the fire and when I am suffering, calling up those feelings I had during the race or workout as kindling for my competitive fire.