When you first start running and you're gradually building your fitness and confidence, it's exciting to see your race times keep improving. Each race brings a new personal record (PR). But eventually you have one of those races when either the conditions weren't ideal, you weren't feeling great physically or mentally, or you simply didn't do the proper training, and you run a dreaded personal worst (PW).
It's hard enough to suffer through a bad race, but dealing with the post-race frustration and disappointment can be even more difficult. Here are some tips for how to bounce back after a race doesn't go your way:
Figure out what went wrong. When you have a bad race, it's helpful to understand why it happened. It easy to figure out when the race conditions (extreme heat, cold, wind, rain, snow) are to blame. But sometimes the cause can be harder to determine. Think hard about possible explanations. Are you overtraining? Did you go out too fast? Did you eat and hydrate properly? Figuring out the reasons behind your bad race can help you avoid a repeat experience and can also help you make necessary adjustments to your training.
Write about it. It may seem like writing about your terrible race will only prolong the agony, but expressing your thoughts about it in your training journal or blog can help you work through it. Having a record of what you think went wrong will also help prevent you from making the same mistake in the future.
Or talk about it. Every runner has had at least one horrible race experience (ask me about the half marathon I had to drop out of), so talk to fellow runners and commiserate with them. Comparing bad run stories with other runners will make you feel better about your own experience because you'll know you're not alone.
Appreciate your good races. The silver lining of having a bad race is that it helps you better appreciate your great races. After a terrible race, think back to the races when all the factors lined up perfectly and you felt incredible the whole way through. (It's helpful if you write about those races, too!) Remember that not every race can be your best (or worst) one. Then, sign up for another race, so you can start focusing on your next goal.