We’ve all had them, the runs that are just terrible where the pace is rubbish compared to what we’re used to or had planned to run or the runs that feel like our legs are wading through treacle or simply that our head’s not in the right place and we end up bailing after a few miles instead of what we set out to do. These are the runs that can make us feel despondent but how do we deal with them and what if they turned out to be the best?

We’ve all got Garmins and it’s easier than ever before to know what pace we’re running at during a run and then study the mile/km splits at the end of the run and all sorts of other data that, in the grand scheme of things, are relatively useless to the majority of us. It’s also very easy to become addicted to the stats, especially during a training plan for a race, have them dictate our runs and become the measure of whether a run was good or not.

How do we feel after we have a run where we were nowhere near our target pace or we’ve felt so bad that we barely managed 6 miles instead of the 10 we had planned? It’s perfectly natural to feel down about it or begin to get anxious as that’s not what our training plan said to do and we’re getting ever closer to a race.

The important thing to know is that one run does not reflect an entire training plan and the fact that you completed the run is more valuable than anything else. As long as you are able to learn from this kind of run then let it go, you haven’t failed. After all, the next run is always the best one.

External Factors

When reviewing a bad run, things that can influence it are sleep, insufficient rest from the previous run, what you ate the night before, what you ate or didn’t eat before, stress and possibly even the wrong pants. Sometimes they just become an opportunity to clear the head of whatever has been preying on our minds. We could probably find a whole lot more reasons behind a bad run but sometimes it just happens with no explanation.

I’ve had a couple of these kind of runs recently, particularly one where I was expecting to run reasonably fast. I had prepared well but I knew in the first mile it was going to be a bit of a slog. I had been aiming for 14 or 16 miles, had planned to do 4 or 5 miles before meeting up with my mate Graeme but struggled to get 3. By the time I left him to go home, I was going to be between 12 and 13 miles and was aware that only me legs felt sluggish but didn’t feel completely dead so I kept going with the intention of doing 15 miles. When I worked out where my turning point was going to be, I got there, spun round, got to mile 14 then speeded up. I just started picking my knees up and used my arms more (this is an easy way to run faster without using any further effort). This started to feel much better and like at any point in a run or race where you know you’re nearly finished, you can start running faster no matter how tired you are. I finished that mile in 7:30, my 3rd fastest mile of the entire run (the others were the first two) and felt better than when I started.

For me, this was a bad run and I could let it affect my mood for the rest of the day but I’ve learned to embrace these kind of situations and celebrate the fact that I went on to do 15 miles when it would’ve been so easy to stop at 12.5.

The biggest learning we can take from these kind of situations is not to get too upset by them, they happen to everyone regardless of what level they’re at, embrace them as much as the good runs, forget about them quickly, move on and look ahead to the next run.

When was the last time you had a bad run? How did you deal with it?


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