Last Friday I did something I don’t typically do.

I quit.

3 miles in to my run I couldn’t take it any longer. The heat and humidity were making me feel like I wanted to throw up. I tried to push through and remind myself that summer running is hard but it didn’t work. I started to get worked up inside which then made it even harder to breathe than it already is. I made the turn to go back home and walked in to the house feeling defeated.

My husband was eating breakfast and was confused. Finished already?

Yep. I wanted to cry. Yes cry. It’s silly really, but in that moment it felt like more of a failure than just having a bad run.

The day went from not so great to worse and when I finally hit the sheets that night, I was MORE than happy the entire day was over.

I didn’t set an alarm Saturday morning for my long run. Truth was – I was scared. I was scared of having another bad run and having to suffer through 14 miles.

I got dressed slowly, made coffee slowly and chatted with my husband and kids. My stomach was uneasy, from the nerves that were consuming me.

I tried to talk some sense in to myself. Dorothy this is just 14 miles, you have done this a million times over, if its a bad run, who cares. Bad runs happen.

It didn’t work. I wanted to run but I didn’t want to run.

When I FINALLY left the house after 8, I was cursing myself for waiting to leave once the sun was already up. I told my husband I was going to try to do whatever and that I may be back after a couple of miles.

I put on my headphones {I don’t usually run with music} and tried to drown out the voices in my head.

14 miles later I had a HUGE smile on my face. The last 3 miles of the run were brutal, my ipod had died and I was tired and ready for the run to be over, but I pushed on.

  • Mile 1: 8:18
  • Mile 2: 8:05
  • Mile 3: 7:59
  • Mile 4: 7:26
  • Mile 5: 7:12
  • Mile 6: 7:04
  • Mile 7: 7:12
  • Mile 8: 7:10
  • Mile 9: 7:22
  • Mile 10: 7:25
  • Mile 11: 7:21
  • Mile 12: 6:55
  • Mile 13: 7:01
  • Mile 14: 6:33

7:21 avg – 1200+ ft of elevation change

I felt strong.

I giggled inside as I walked in to the house. I just had the worst run in recent memory, followed by one of the strongest 14 milers I’ve had all year.

Proof positive that ONE RUN DOES NOT DEFINE YOU.

Good Runs Happen

Everyone, and I mean everyone, has bad runs. You may have 1 or you may have 20, they are going to happen. There is absolutely no point, in my opinion, to dwell on them. As someone who has a terrible habit on dwelling on just about everything, bad runs are one of the things I can tell you that I get out of my head as fast as I can. I don’t want those runs, that do not define me, to affect future runs. I feel this way about races too. Bad race? Analyze – then MOVE on.

 

Here are my tips for moving on from a bad run:

  • Give yourself a break. Were you up all night, have you been sleeping less than normal, did you have a long weekend, busy work week, kids stressing you out, relationship problems – all these things can affect how you perform on runs. If life is hectic give yourself a break. Giving yourself a break is different than 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 beat yourself up. One thing that most women are really good at is be very critical of themselves. No need to say unkind things to yourself mentally. Less than stellar runs happen to elites, it’s all part of the process. Lift yourself up instead of tearing yourself down. I believe that the body believes what the mind says. When you tell yourself you are a terrible runner, or that you can’t run, or that you deserved that crappy run, or that you will never be good at anything – your body starts to listen to you. Why should your body perform when all you do is hate on it?
  • Laugh about it. You had a bad run. It’s sort of funny how upsetting it can be – right? I mean really if a bad run is the largest problem you have that day then it’s not really that bad of a problem – right? Remember you GET to run, you don’t HAVE to run.
  • If you are a blogger, don’t blog about every single terrible run you have. I realize that some of you may disagree with me and may think that if I blogged more about my crappy runs or workouts I might seem more relatable, but I also blog for myself, not for everyone else. Putting every crappy run down in words reminds me of all those runs. Years and years of bad runs would be documented. Why not document runs that lift me up, runs that encourage me a year from now.
  • MOVE ON. I realize a tip telling you how to move on that is titled MOVE ON, may seem a bit silly, but seriously. MOVE ON. Sh*t happens, no way around it. Get that run out of your head as fast as you can and focus on the next workout or run that has the possibility of being great!!

What are your tips for moving on from a bad run?

 

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Comments

  1. Bad runs for me, thankfully not very frequent, always have to do with tired legs. Pushing myself for some goal and my legs finally rebelling. Last bad run, I literally did a huge oval once I left my driveway, realizing it was not happening. Hubs asked, “Do you want to bike ride instead?” “Nope,” I know this feeling and I’m not doing ANYthing. I’m resting.” Puzzled look from hubs. Luckily, he’s really not used to seeing me have bad runs. Rest. Analyze. Move on. Literally.

  2. Thank you Dorothy for this post!! I so needed to read this after having my bad long run last weekend. Still nervous about my 14 miles this weekend, but will refer to this post before taking it on. And your splits….WOW!! NICE WORK!

  3. Amanda says:

    This was a great post! I just finished a terrible 2-mile run this morning. I’ve run a marathon but I could barely make it 2 miles! This was just the encouragement I needed today.

  4. Terikay says:

    Thanks for the reminder and being honest with your readers. It’s refreshing.

  5. I love this- “Remember you GET to run, you don’t HAVE to run.” I remind myself that often when I have bad runs or just hard workouts that I’m intimidated to do. Great job powering through a long run and finishing STRONG.

  6. Last week when it was scordhing on the east coast, I struggled with almost all of my runs. They were painful and forced and not at all enjoyable. I was frustrated with myself because here I was, less than two miles into a run, and I already wanted to quit…when just 6 weeks ago, I was doing the longest race I have ever done. Yesterday, I set off for a 7 mile run and it was like the coin had flipped. It felt SO good! The temperatures are dropping and the running became enjoyable again. Sometimes it’s just hard to wait it out and trust that it’s going to get better.

  7. Running is such a mental game. Those bad runs can have a huge impact, but they really do happen to everyone. WAY TO ROCK IT GIRL

  8. I’ve been struggling on a lot of my runs in the past few weeks, mainly due to lingering injuries, so I’ve decided to stop trying to push through the pain and just take the rest that I need. I’m going to do more weights, biking and swimming and less running for the rest of the summer. I hate having to cut back on my mileage–I have some sort of mental obsession with “needing” to do at least 45-50 miles a week–but I keep reminding myself that the cross training is just as good for me as running and will make me even stronger in the end.

  9. I had a similar experience this weekend. I had a race on Sunday that I was hoping to run much faster than I did, but due to a combination of the heat, tired legs, and plantar fasciitis, I had a terrible race and had to walk a lot of it. I was sad and felt awful about how that went, but I gave my legs a few rest days and had a fantastic run on Wednesday. What helps me after having a bad run is to plan my next run as an easy run where I concentrate on enjoying the run, not on hitting any paces or goals. Reminding myself of how great running makes me feel helps me gain back some confidence.

  10. I LOVE this post! There are some days when runs just go awful. There is no rhyme or reason there are just bad runs – the best thing you can do is pick yourself and move forward. There are some days it is just best to listen to your body!

  11. Corrina says:

    Thank you for this excellent post. I hurt myself and took a month off of running and all exercise and as a result gained weight during a free for all indulged extended vacation. You name it I ate it, drank it. Today I’m beating myself up, filled with self pitty and loathing. I’ve started back to the gym and my runs are only to 4 miles. My aching body is begging forgiveness that my mind just wont give until my jeans fit better. So this post was very encouraging and helped me see how even a short 4 mile run can be improved as I run my way back to a healthier and more fit me. thank you Dorothy!!

  12. Great advice – I especially like the tip not to blog about every bad run. Your point that you don’t do that because your blog is for YOU is especially great. :)

  13. I feel ya! I often think that the toughest part of running is the mental aspect of it all. And recovering from a bad run is TOUGH. I do think it gets easier the more we run, because we see that time and time again bad runs come, but that they don’t mean anything. My husband (who coaches me) always tells me that good runs tell us what we are capable of, but bad runs tell us absolutely nothing other than the fact that we had a bad day. When we have a bad run, there’s nothing we can do besides move on. And the best way to move on? Another run the next day! :)

  14. A few months ago, I had my worst run ever. The weather had just started getting warmer, I was under hydrated, it was my first 18 miler in that marathon training cycle (PDR after baby), and it was awful from the start. I couldn’t take a deep breath, my pace was slow but the effort was ridiculously hard, I was exhausted by mile 4, and I started having to take frequent walking breaks by mile 5. I kept pushing, but I knew by mile 9 that I wouldn’t finish the 18. I turned around (it was an out-and-back) and at mile 11 called my husband to come get me when I hit mile 13 (I was on a trail with no access to city streets). I was a dizzy, fatigued mess. Stupid me, did the walk/run thing to mile 13 to meet him. I almost passed out in the car. Awful run.
    My next runs were started with a ball of anxiety in my belly. I was afraid to go out, but eventually that feeling passed as I had some good runs in a row.
    I always have to remind myself that everyone has bad runs. There’s no magic to this whole thing, just a lot of hard work and it’s mostly mental. Start with the mind and the legs will follow.

  15. I seriously have been thinking about this very topic lately. I had a bad run on Tuesday, and quit during my last interval at the track. So unsettling to feel unfinished. Thanks for the great tips to move on.

  16. Melanie says:

    Sometimes you need a bad run to appreciate a good one – just like in life when something sad happens it makes the next happy thing that much more joyous. I’ve quit a track workout before, but it was exactly what I needed to be better the next time – mentally and physically.

  17. I remind myself that “I run this body”. Thanks for sharing your strength with us.

  18. Thank you for posting this! The heat here is unbearable all summer, every summer (my husband and I still slog through though!) and we had our first *really* bad run…at a local 5k race. I did cry (after I passed out briefly, and nearly threw up too) for a while about it, and I beat myself up incessantly for too long– because I felt like it was all my “fault”. In reality it was the first hot weather race we’d ever done, after a week of night shifts (12 hour shifts) with very little good sleep. We were destined to do badly, looking back! And it’s ok, because in the end it got us to really work at it!

  19. This post was definitely inspiring to me! Thanks for sharing!

  20. “Remember you GET to run, you don’t HAVE to run.”

    My brother survived a ‘widow-maker’ heart attack three months ago. We got to run together when I visited him over 4th of July. He is slow, easily winded, had to walk a lot, and we only did a few miles … but it was one of the BEST runs of my life, because I sat by his side in a coma with no guarantee he would survive the night, let alone run again!

  21. Honestly, your “bad” run was your body just telling you something. Sometimes that happens but its great you got out there the next day! I have a terrible time recovering and those mentally horrible runs are tough!! Hopefully you got a little rest from the humidity this week ! (I’m from VA too)

  22. Wendy says:

    A wise friend, an Ironman finisher gave me some great advice the day I ran the Chicago marathon. “You have to go with what they day brings you” she told me. The day brought me 80+ degrees, dehydration, and cramps. My solace? My training was good. I was prepared. But the weather was a factor I couldn’t control.

    On bad runs, I repeat that advice to myself. And head back out another day.

  23. Wendy says:

    A wise friend, an Ironman finisher gave me some great advice the day I ran the Chicago marathon. “You have to go with what they day brings you” she told me. The day brought me 80+ degrees, dehydration, and cramps. My solace? My training was good. I was prepared. But the weather was a factor I couldn’t control. And regardless, I did finish.

    On bad runs, I repeat that advice to myself. And head back out another day.

  24. I think the bad runs make us appreciate the good ones even more! Last Friday’s weather was brutal! Even though Saturday’s heat and humidity wasn’t much better, you sure did triumph! Way to rock those last three miles without your music!!!

  25. Kristen says:

    I’m so glad I’m not alone in this. There have been some days I feel like I could run for hours and then just a week later, feel like I can’t even make it 3 miles! I don’t understand it and I hate that it can just happen without warning. I always pray I don’t feel like that before a race! Way to go on bouncing back! :)

  26. Bad runs are so destroyng aren’t they?… :( So glad you had a great run the following morning!

  27. Luna665 says:

    thank you so much for this one… perfect timing for me 😉

  28. Thank you for this post!
    I’ve recently been dreading my tempo runs every week because they never seem to go as planned, and I refuse to accept that the humidity and heat should be slowing me down. It’s a vicious cycle of one bad tempo, leading me to dreading my next tempo, which turns out bad because I have a terrible attitude going into it.
    I think you’re 100% right that the body believes what the mind says. There’s no use in my dwelling on my tough tempos when deep down I know, come fall, I’ll feel great again and the paces will drop.

  29. These are such good words. A bad run can really be so mentally destabilizing. I think simply realizing this in advance can be so helpful. That way when the insecurity and anxiety come after a bad run, we can say “ah yes, I expected I might feel this way” and look at it for what it is and move on.

  30. I’ve had a series of bad runs lately due to heavy mileage and the fear of what I thought was a stress fracture. Sometimes you have to own bad runs for what they are, wash them out of your mind, and pick up the next day. In my belief, there are so many variables that account for the success or failure of a run – the weather, sufficient carb loading, having enough fluid in the system, the intensity or length of the previous day’s run, stress in work or family, and even having enough sleep. Any one of these elements, if disrupted enough, can derail a solid run. But we move on, grit our teeth, learn from poor runs, and ideally improve on the next one.

    –Austin

  31. Just found your blog. I have seen the “I Run This Body” shirts (which I thought were super cute) on Pinterest, but did not realize the blog(or the runner) behind the shirt. Glad I know now :) Great post!

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