What happens after you have a bad long run?

Do you automatically start to doubt your ability on race day or do you move on and chalk it up to training?

I’ve done both.

9 years ago when I first started training for marathons a bad long run would get me down for weeks. I mistakenly thought that the long run was the most important part of marathon training and that if I had a terrible super long run then there was no way I could run a good race.

Years and 20 marathons later I’ve learned better.

I have crappy long runs every single training cycle. The faster I’ve gotten the MORE of these terrible type long runs I’ve had.

I get anxiety about the long run and stress about whether the next run coming is going to be that run that almost breaks me.

3 weeks ago I went out at a little after 4 am with the goal of running 20 miles. 15 feet into the run I knew it was going to BE MISERABLE.

I knew it was going to be one of those runs that would make me doubt whether I could run a faster marathon this fall. What I didn’t know was that for a moment in time it actually made me want to give up marathons all together – reasoning with myself that 20 was plenty enough to last a lifetime.

I spent 20 miles thinking about nothing other than the fact that I didn’t want to run 20 miles. It consumed my mind. Making it to the next mile felt impossible. At mile 15 I felt an unfamiliar twinge in my knee. I knew I should putz home but I was being proud – I wanted to finish 20 even if they were hard. I wanted to race a 10 miler the next weekend so I knew it was either do this 20 this weekend or I would have to do it the next weekend.

I finished but I felt like hell for all 20 miles of it.

The run as expected made me doubt for part of the day. Then I remembered the not so great runs I had before B & A this year, the not so great runs I had before Columbus Marathon last year and I smiled.

Crappy runs don’t always mean that you are going to have a crappy race.

Bad runs happen. You have a choice whether you let them push you down or pick you up.

What will you choose?

  • Mile 1: 10:22
  • Mile 2: 8:47
  • Mile 3: 9:03
  • Mile 4: 8:54
  • Mile 5: 9:14
  • Mile 6: 9:05
  • Mile 7: 9:12
  • Mile 8: 8:37
  • Mile 9: 8:43
  • Mile 10: 8:37
  • Mile 11: 9:02
  • Mile 12: 9:00
  • Mile 13: 8:28
  • Mile 14: 9:09
  • Mile 15: 9:06
  • Mile 16: 8:48
  • Mile 17: 8:55
  • Mile 18: 8:49
  • Mile 19: 8:21
  • Mile 20: 8:19

As further proof that bad runs don’t always mean bad races – I ran a pretty sweet PR a week after that crappy run.

I will not let a bad run get me down. I will not let a bad run get me down. Repeat after me. I will not let a bad run get me down.

In the end a PR, a bad run, or a good run is just a time on a clock. Find happines in the experience and in the people you love.

These three make every run good!

I special shout out to my friend and coaching client Jocelyn from Enthusiastic Runner who PR’ed BIG TIME at Chicago Marathon on Sunday. She ran a 4:03 and keeps emailing me about how shocked she is about her progress about a runner. I’m not shocked. Sometimes there is something inside of you that others can see but you have a hard time seeing it/believing it yourself.

She was a rock star runner before I met her she just needed to really believe it. The power of the mind is JUST AS important when the comes to running as are the physical runs. Here is her blog http://enthusiasticrunner.com/ if you haven’t seen it before. If you have – then head over there and tell her congrats!!  Dream big friends. DREAM BIG.

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  1. Oh. My. Did you write this for me?? I had a terrible 18 miler on Saturday & just wrote about how if ripped apart my running mojo. Thanks for the good read – I needed it!!

  2. I’ve been running for almost 20 years, and didn’t begin any distance running until last year when I completed my first half, and went on to do a handful of them this year. The long run is already in my head, as I approach my next half in 12 days, and then begin training for my first FULL in Feb 2013. Sometimes my run is a mental break from the world, sometimes it’s my mental break down…I just keep running :)

  3. Perfect timing for this! I had a really rough (and terribly slow) 20 miler on Sunday and it’s messing with my confidence. This made me feel so much better!!

  4. I love the perspective you bring! I agree- you need to look at the training cycle as a whole instead of individual runs. It’s also easy to get over-hyped about an abnormally good run. I like to keep both “good” and “bad” runs tempered and reserve judgement for the big picture. Congrats again on that 10-mile PR. You are incredible!

  5. oh yeah – when I have a bad long run I immediately doubt I can run a marathon (eg: long run two weeks ago).

    I run best when I don’t pay attn to clock and am a wee bit stressed in my personal life — not going to run NYCM with a watch a la Jocelyn in chicago (so proud of her, too!)

  6. It’s so crazy that one run can mess with your mind so much. More proof that running is way more than physical power. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. How about a bad race run?? I just attempted my 4th marathon on Sunday with the hopes of qualifying for Boston, after struggling with an injury for the last 5 weeks of training, I still felt ok enough to get out there…17 miles later, I was done, totally devastated and discouraged. I guess we all have bad days, some just don’t fall on a training day. :(

  8. This is so good for so many to hear. I have doubted myself so many times after bad long runs and bad marathons. It is nice to hear someone experienced tell us that they mean nothing other than you had a bad day. period. end of story.

  9. Once in a while a bad run doesn’t mean anything…but usually it means that I’ve overtrained. If it’s an early long run I don’t let it get to me, but if it’s late in training, I back way off if I have a rough long one.

  10. Love this post. Just had a bad final long run before my half marathon on Sunday… & I know it doesn’t really matter. The week before, I’d run 11 miles & had gas left in the tank, so I know this half marathon is going to be great. I’m trying to put the bad weekend out of my head & put my game face on. 😀

  11. I’ll try to believe…I’ll try to believe…

    I’m at the end of a completely horrible training cycle for marathon #8, Marine Corps (18 days away), where each training run over 15 miles felt like a slogfest and involved some walking, yet my sights have been set on a sub-4:00 PR. HOW? And the past 2 weeks have been owned by the plantar fasciitis monster. Heading for cortisone shots in 3 hours and trying to sweep up the shards of my shattered confidence.

    Thank you for the assurance that bad long runs aren’t the end of the story.

  12. I had a bad long run this summer while training for my half ironman and it got me down like you wouldn’t believe. The weather was sooo hot and I ran out of water and i was walking after 7 miles. I embarrassingly emailed my coach who, like you said you did about your client, believed in me and told me to brush that run off. That run meant nothing in terms of my training even though it really brought me down. And thank you to all coaches like yourself for believing in your clients. My coach’s confidence in me has pushed me this past few months to run faster and do more than I could have ever dreamed.

  13. Man I needed this post. Deep down I know I can’t let them affect me so much. But they do. I have been struggling with my longer runs all summer. I recognize that it was mostly due to heat and humidity so I slowed my pace and was just happy to finish the miles. But as my next half approaches, I cannot seem to get past 10 miles without struggling. I start hitting a wall and just can’t get out of my head. I keep trying to go into the run with the idea of just enjoying. But I think I’m pushing too hard then getting frustrated and doubtful. So thank you for this reminder.

  14. Every run is a lesson. Sometimes the lesson is “trust your legs” and sometimes the lesson is “running might not be your thing today but you’ll rock at something else” but they’re always there. As soon as I figured that out, it became way easier to bounce back after the hard runs. That’s not to say they don’t get me down, simply that I’m able to pour myself a cup of coffee, or run a hot bath and move on. And CONGRATULATIONS, JOCELYN! Bask in all that PR glory, girl – you’ve earned it.

  15. I am really lucky to have you as a Coach. Can’t say that enough. :)

  16. I LOVE the comments about Jocelyn in this post! She is very lucky to have you as a coach and I am sure coaching her is awesome! The first time I ran with her, I saw the SAME thing you saw…that she is a rockstar runner and just doesn’t believe it yet :) You two make a great team!! Congrats, Coach!

  17. Thank you so much for this post!! Yesterday I experianced a terrible run. It was supposed to be 20. But my head cold and queesy stomach got the better of me and I had to walk/jog back home. Only 12 crappy miles. And I have just been so ill over this. I also began to think maybe I don’t belong to the marathon club of runners. Why am I running this?? This post greatly encouraged me. Thank you very much!!

  18. It’s funny because I see more and more programs including very long run, as long as 20 miles ! I think it’s a bit excessive. I try to stick to a half-marathon or 2h00 as my longest run.
    Something a bit like that: http://www.calendarofmarathons.com/training-plan-4-sessions-14-weeks/

  19. So glad I googled “bad long run during training.” I needed reinforcement I am not the only one this happens two. I’ll get it after another long one next Saturday.

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