Recovering from a Disappointing Race

If you have been running for more than a few months, I bet you have had times when you were frustrated with a workout or race. What tips have you learned to get past those disappointments and move on?

I have had workouts that were hard for me, where I couldn’t nail my pace, or my legs felt like bricks. I have also had several races when I was disappointed with my performance.

I’m going to add the 2012 Dallas Marathon to that list.

It’s tough to mentally recover from a poor performance in a race, especially when you feel you were well prepared. The amount of time spent training further adds to the disappointment. I’ve been working to resolve this in my mind this week, so hopefully this post will wrap up my emotions and help me move on to the next plan.

Before the start, I was well prepared and excited for a great race.

Before the start, I was well prepared and excited for a great race.

The Dallas Marathon Sunday started with temperatures in the sixties and humidity. I had a few setbacks by leaving my hand-held water bottle at home, and broken sunglasses, but I felt great at the start. I tried to slow my pace down in the beginning, but my legs wouldn’t respond. They were well rested and ready to go. I made it through mile 10, with a few congested water stops, before I realized my shirt was soaked through with sweat. I got some Gatorade at that stop, but I started losing my 4:10 pace.

Nausea took over by the halfway point. I ran with the 4:15 pace group for almost a mile, then watched them slip away. Miles 14 through 19 were a blur of nausea, run/walk breaks, and Gatorade stops. There was a nice breeze blowing across White Rock Lake, which cooled me off, but it was too late. I was already cooked.

I managed to stomach Gatorade at several of the stops. At mile 19 I started weaving. I felt light-headed and nauseous still. I didn’t know how I would make it 7 more miles. Dropping out briefly entered my mind, but I remembered a quote from my Ironman friend: “Pain is temporary, quitting is forever.”

I told myself, “Even if I have to walk the last 7 miles, I will finish.”

At mile 22, I sent my husband a text. This is something I never do in a race, but it was near my goal time and I didn’t want him to worry. Any chance of a PR was gone, and the singular goal became “finish.”

The Gatorade was helping the nausea, and I was able to run more in miles 23-26 than I did in 13-19. The 5:00 pace group passed by. I saw many others walking. Spectators called out encouragements to runners. I have never been so glad to see a finish line!


I consider this race a valuable learning tool. I need to make some changes in order to run better in higher humidity and temperatures. After the race, the salt residue on my skin was more abundant than I’ve ever seen.

I have to remind myself I did finish a marathon. A lot can happen in 26.2 miles. I need to give the marathon the respect it deserves.

I’m also focusing on the positives from the weekend.

1. I met Dean Karnazes at the race expo.

2. I ran longer than I ever have before – time and distance (26.4 miles on my Garmin, probably due to the weaving back and forth).

3. I am more motivated for the Cowtown marathon in February. Hopefully it will be cold then.

4. I know to make sure I want to be called whatever is on my race shirt. I was “Run Happy” for 26.2 miles even though my name was on my bib.

How do you recover from a bad race?

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