The rain flying sideways was soft, but constant, never allowing me to let go, enjoy the miles and my big marathon goal. That lead to my legs chiming in with their own thoughts on how hard this run was feeling, which lead to my right shoulder feeling a little wonky and then was that a blister forming on my pinkie toe?
Probably time to call it quits.
Here’s why sometimes you need to dig in and double down on the really bad runs.The mental side of running is possibly my favorite topic.
Sure, sure I love gossiping about changing shoe models, which running form is really best and all things IT Band…but the mental stuff, well that’s what keeps us coming back. It’s why they call us crazy and yet we know they’re the crazy ones for missing out on all the lessons of running.
Bad Runs for Great Racing
Assuming your run hasn’t devolved into a sharp cry of anguish with every step due to a true injury, it’s time to dig in your forefoot and push onward.(read this for signs of injury vs mental pain)
Let’s talk about why bad runs so fantastic and more importantly why SEEING them as fantastic can help you get past it quicker.
Master of the Mind Game
During a bad run, you have two options: quit or distract.
Sometimes we quit and that’s fine too, but on the days where you decide to keep going you’ll begin the fine art of playing mind games. These games aren’t just about zoning out, they are a chance for you to refocus your mind away from that random new chafing sensation in your heel…and voila a few miles later you can’t even remember which foot it was on.
The random aches, pains, can’t breathe, stomach knots are bound to happen on race day. Having worked through them in training, you’ll know if you can just keep moving “this too shall pass”.
Checkout the mind games of 6 marathon runners that might help you.
Truly Embracing Taper
It’s insanely common for the last big run of a marathon training cycle to suck the big one. It takes every ounce of energy you have to cover the 20 miles, collapsing in a sweaty heap on the couch later you’re convinced 26.2 is beyond your reach (especially at goal pace).
Good news, this is in many ways exactly where you’re supposed to be heading in to taper!!! Doesn’t just knowing that already make you feel better?!
Often runners dread taper because we love to run and we hate time off or fear that reducing mileage is going to hurt us on race day. If you taper the right way that’s simply not true, but more importantly if you have peaked correctly you will be feeling every muscle and ready to EMBRACE a two week taper. Remember on race day you won’t be putting in 20 miles on legs that have been doing tons of miles and speed work, they will have the benefit of that recovery time to leave you refreshed.Why your bad runs might be the sign of a great race to come #runchat Click To Tweet
Shutting Down the Negative Talk
You’re out for a run and then you hear it – that voice.
You turn up your music, but it’s still there.
The voice that tells you that you can’t run one more step, that you’ll never shave time off your mile, that there is no way you’ll be able to run 13.1 miles, that you’ll never be faster than you were last year or than the person that just passed you.
It sounds familiar because it is familiar. It’s your voice – more specifically your ego or fear-based voice. It’s the voice that judges, attacks, limits, and compares. It’s the voice that has the power to literally stop you in your tracks.It’s time to learn how to shut it down:
1. Acknowledge it. Trying to stuff it down just makes it scream louder.
2. Talk it out. You’ve got nothing but miles, so start thinking where the heck is this coming from? I’ve done long runs before, so am I allowing what others have said to me in the past to creep in and cause doubt. That sneaky little subconscious never lets us forget, but if we an find it and shine a light on the fear it suddenly isn’t so scary.
“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.”
– Madeline L’Engle
3. Flip it around. Don’t feed the fear. Turn it on it’s head.
Fear: I’m not in good enough shape to be a runner. I’ll hurt myself and not even finish.
Flip it: I am stronger with every step. I am a runner.
Learning to Let Go
This last one might be the most important.
There will be races that don’t go as planned. Your magic Lulu’s suddenly become a static magnet and your thighs are screaming with raw chafing by mile 10, which inevitably slows you down. Your always perfect pre-race meal is sloshing around and simultaneously sitting lick a brick, leaving you unable to push on to your PR dreams.
After months of training, it’s heartbreaking to have a race go off the rails. But it happens and the faster you can find ways to mentally make peace with it, the sooner you’ll have the confidence to try again. It’s not just about your body recovering, you have to mentally KNOW you can, which isn’t easy when your confidence has been shaken.
So how do you let it go:
- Recognize it was one run and put it in context of your overall training
- Review why it potentially when wrong and use it to improve
- Remember why you started running and it probably wasn’t about a PR
- One run doesn’t define you, neither does a string of bad runs
And of course I stand by all the things I said in why I love a no good very bad run for making us appreciate all the other miles that go so well.
What do you do when a bad run strikes?
Do you push through? Stop? Ruminate on it for days?
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