Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Everyone has bad runs, I repeat everyone. When the going is easy, it’s fun being a runner. When the going gets tough— not so much.
One bad run doesn’t make you a bad runner.
20 bad runs doesn’t even make you a bad runner.
Having more bad runs than good means you should analyze what’s going on. It’s part of the whole process. Some people have years that they would consider bad, only to follow that up with a breakthrough year. Recognize that every runner is going to have peaks and valleys and that your struggles are likely no easier or harder than anyone else’s.
Accept the truth. Repeat after me—everyone has bad runs. It’s not just you. While it may seem like your Instagram feed is filled with other runners having awesome runs while frolicking with unicorns, I promise you that is as far from the truth as you can get. I’ve made it a point to not post as much about my crappy runs because I don’t want to think about them. I don’t need to remember those runs. I need to focus on the good ones in order to show up confident on race day and not let those little doubt demons tell me about all the not-so-great-runs I had. That doesn’t mean I hide the fact that I have those runs. It just means that when I scroll back through my feed, I want to see runs that build my confidence and do not tear it down.
Give yourself a break. Did you sleep poorly last night because you are stressed about work? Are you having relationship problems that are eating you alive? Is there a sick kid in your house that has needed around the clock care? If life is hectic, give yourself a break. Giving yourself a break is different from giving yourself an excuse ahead of time. A break means that you don’t beat yourself up about a run that didn’t go as planned.
Don’t dwell. If you are the journaling type, write out your feelings. Write about how angry you are that you felt terrible. Write about how you wanted to run 13 solid miles and you barely made it through 9 with stops. Get it out, and then leave it out.
Put it in perspective. Very few of us are professional athletes. Our livelihood and being able to put food on our table does not depend on our running. Running is something we GET to do. We don’t have to do it. I’m not saying that one shouldn’t strive to be the best they can be. I believe it’s healthy to set goals and go after them. However it is good to remind yourself that dwelling on a bad run is a first world problem.
Talk about it if you need to, but then move on. You can’t undo the past but you can change the future. Talk about what happened if you need to. Whine, complain, heck even cry if it makes you feel better. Then move on. No need to continually beat yourself up over it. I’d venture to say that if you had an awesome run, you don’t remind yourself constantly of how great that run was. On the flip side, there is absolutely no need to remind yourself for weeks how not-so-great a certain run was.
Move on. Seriously. Just do it. My feeling is that the body believes what the mind says. If you keep telling yourself negative things about your abilities, your running is not likely going to improve. The power of positive thinking is a real thing. You had a bad run. Maybe there was no reason for it other than it happened. Move on. A good run is just around the bend.