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When a race day performance doesn’t go well, it can frustrating and depressing. We invest so much time preparing for a race that when the event doesn’t go as planned, it can be hard to swallow. But our race day performance doesn’t define us. It is not necessarily indicative of the hard work we’ve done or our current fitness level.  Here are a few tips to help overcome a bad race day performance. 

Post race blues.  Immediately after a bad race performance, its okay to feel down and reflect on what went wrong but don’t wallow in it. Does a bad race performance it mean you’ll never race again? No. It may take a few days but when your emotions settle down reflect on the experience and ask yourself some honest questions. 

Take note. Make notes on what went well during the race and what didn’t go so well. Maybe your hydration strategy was on target but your nutrition plan was not. Perhaps the first 18 miles of your marathon went great but overwhelming fatigue set in during the final 7 miles. Maybe you started out too fast or didn’t taper long enough for the race distance. Often there are external factors beyond our control such as bad weather conditions or equipment malfunction which should always be taken into consideration. Realize that answers to these questions can provide valuable knowledge for future races.

Learn from the experience. Every race is a learning experience whether race day goes well or not as planned. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture and over-analyze a bad race day. Find positive things that went well. There are positive elements to any bad race which won’t be evident immediately afterwards. Every athlete needs to look back on what they could have done better but also acknowledge what went well during the race.

Stay positive.  Process the experience and move on. We train hard and try to do our best all the time, but no matter how well prepared, anything can happen on race day. Everyone at some point has a bad race day but bad races make the good races that much more satisfying. Competing in any race is an accomplishment itself. Merely surviving the demands of training and making it to the starting line is an achievement. Don’t let a bad race day control your life. Realize that just training for a race is a huge feat and more than the average person will ever do.


Sherry Shelton is a full time professional coach and trainer with over two decades of experience in the health, fitness and endurance sports coaching industry. Sherry is licensed USA Triathlon Coach, USA Cycling Coach, USA Track & Field Coach and a nationally certified Personal Trainer. She is Head Coach and Founder of Train Smart Coaching located in North GA. Visit www.trainsmartcoaching.com for more information.