Digging deep – when the reality of a ‘bad run’ sets in

Whether you’re a novice runner or a pro, we all suffer from a ‘bad run’ every so often. A run where your legs feel heavy, your body aches from head to toe, your mind screams stop from the moment you step over the doorstep and everything just feels, well, all a bit wrong.

Bad runs come in all shapes and sizes – from the long runs that gets cut short as you find yourself exhausted after just a quarter of the distance you were planning. To the run where you aim to maintain a certain pace yet struggle to keep up after just a few miles. Or even the run that becomes a stop, start struggle from the very beginning. These are the runs that challenge your inner strength and make you begin to question, why do I bother running at all?

You may begin to question what in particular made that run a ‘bad run’? Was it under hydration, poor fuelling beforehand, the wrong running shoes, that extra glass of wine the night before, the effects of over-training or even the weather conditions on the day. You’re likely to over analyse each and every bad run you have to try and identify the root cause, but what’s the point in beating yourself up about it. A bad run is a bad run. It’s knowing how to cope with those runs when you’re in the moment, and then learning how to move on straight afterwards.

How to deal with a bad run

When the onset of a bad run strikes, it becomes a mental battle between stopping and taking the short route home or pushing on for a few more miles regardless. So firstly start by asking yourself, does it matter if I don’t achieve the full mileage today? Could I re-attempt the run another day this week? Cut the run in half? Or skip it entirely?

If you do decide to run on, there are a couple of techniques I use to get me to the finish line.

  • Recounting successful runs - the ones where I’ve smashed a PB or managed a few extra miles than originally planned. It’s a good way to remind yourself that this run, however rubbish it feels, is an anomaly rather than the norm.

  • Distraction – try distracting your mind by setting mini-run targets like finishing the next mile without looking at your watch, counting down the next 10 lamp posts along the route or splitting up the distance into smaller chunks to count down as you go. If you can distract your mind long enough, you may just manage the distance you originally set out to do.

  • Immerse yourself in music – an easy way to combat the boredom and motivate you to run longer.

  • Check yourself – remind yourself why you’re out running in the first place and how great the feeling will be when you accomplish the distance. A quick pep talk can work wonders!

Whatever the outcome on the day, just remember a good run cannot be forced. You can however learn from each and every run, good or bad, and use this to improve your future performance. Perhaps you begin to learn what your optimal time in the day to run is, how best to fuel your body or which brand of trainers work best for you.

Having good and bad days is all part of every runner’s journey and a bad runs happens to us all at some point. It’s how you move on from that run that can set you apart from other runners. Don’t dwell on the past, instead think ahead to your next outing, and how you can make that one a bigger success!

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