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While crossing the finish line can produce a rush of euphoria or a flood of relief, it’s also normal to feel somewhat deflated in the hours and days following a race – particularly if it didn’t go according to plan. After all, you invested serious time, energy and resources training and preparing for the big day. When it’s all over, you might be left with some tough questions: What just happened? Where did I go wrong? What comes next?!
In this article, we outline three simple steps for tackling the post-race blues and readying yourself for the next go-round.
There are plenty of reasons why you may not have reached a particular goal on a particular day. Forgetting to refuel, going out too fast, gear malfunctions, crappy weather, injuries, and regrettable decisions about what to eat the night before to name a scant few. But while you may be in a hurry to put a “disastrous” performance behind you, it’s important to spend some time reflecting on how the race really went (as opposed to how you feel about it).
Paula Burchat, coach of the Run Ottawa Club, emphasizes that we can learn a lot from our struggles on the course. As she says, “it’s the hard fought battles and big flops that have taught me the most.” That’s what the latest psychological research on the nature of wisdom tells us as well. It’s not enough to have an experience. We also need to reflect on it so that we can assess what worked and what didn’t and then use this critical info to set our next goal or tweak our next training plan.
Ask yourself, what will I do the same next time? And what can I change up?
Reframing is the act of looking at a situation or event from a slightly different perspective. Which means recognizing and emphasizing the positive aspects of your achievement – even if at first glance it might seem like less than a high point. It’s about moving from a problem-saturated to a solution-focused perspective on your running game.
For example, you may not have finished in the time you were hoping for, but achieving a “B” or “C” goal, or finishing at all if you bonk or sustain an injury mid-race requires immense fortitude and perseverance – which is a reflection of your courage and commitment. That’s strength that you’ll be able to draw on next time. As one of our running friends said about a tremendous effort that placed her just shy of a Boston Qualifying time, “I did everything I could to keep going and cross that *&$#%^ line. Very pleased, I do not feel I left anything on the course. And the best part, I still have a goal for next time!"
That’s the *&$#%^ spirit!
Coming up a bit short doesn’t mean you failed, it just means you have work to do – and enjoyable work at that. (After you take a well-deserved rest of course!) Let the lessons you learned from this race inform decisions about where, how far and how fast you want to run next time. Then refocus on that next goal. Depending on the factors that influenced your latest performance, you may want to keep the same goal, scale it back or dial it up even more. Or maybe you want to change things up by throwing in a half-marathon or a 10k. Whatever the case, remember that fun is a powerful fuel for achievement. As 2013 Canadian Marathon Champion Rob Watson points out, we do this because we love it – even when it feels like a grind!
So, as we look forward to some great running events this summer and fall, we hope that no matter your chip time, you are leaving this year’s race with a little more racing wisdom, a proud sense of achievement, and a goal for next time.