One of the most discouraging feelings is working hard towards a specific goal, but failing to see hard work pay off. Unfortunately, as runners, it’s common to dedicate an entire training plan to a specific race goal and still have things not go our way on race day.
After months of training, you end up missing your race goal.
Between the many conditions outside of our control on race day, unpredictable injuries and life changes, many races don’t end up going as planned.
And while it’s easy to feel frustrated and discouraged when you don’t hit your time goal, it’s important to remember that these “failures” are what make the accomplishment so sweet. After all, what would be the reward if everything was easy?
Regardless of how disappointed you may or may not feel over missing a race goal, it can seem hard to move on at times. Here are 6 ways to recover both mentally and physically if running your goal race didn’t go as planned.
6 Ways to Recover After a Missed Race Goal
Celebrate what went right during training.
It’s hard to feel successful after missing a time goal on race day. After weeks and months of training, not accomplishing your race goal feels like a huge let down.
But despite these initial feelings, it’s likely that you improved quite a bit along the way. While it’s easy to focus on the negative (was all of that hard work for nothing?!), taking the time to intentionally think through everything that went right is crucial for your mental state.
You might surprise yourself to discover what all when right during training and even on race day. Remember all those hard workouts you conquered, moments when training felt easier, long runs that were accomplished, and a successful fueling strategy on race day.
While you may have missed your main time goal, it’s important to take the time to acknowledge and truly celebrate all the hard work you did along the way.
Evaluate what when wrong on race day.
After the initial disappointment of not hitting your time goal wears off, it’s time to think through what actually happened on race day. It’s easy to hit a PR when the weather is ideal, you had your best night’s sleep, your body felt strong and stomach was settled.
However, more often than not, we find ourselves walking to the starting corrals of our goal race noticing a few twinges in our legs, feeling a bit tired, or overcome with nerves.
Now is the time to think through everything that happened on race day. How did you sleep? Was your fueling according to plan? Did you start out too fast? Did you hit a wall?
Ask yourself all of these questions and more. Missed race goals provide us with a valuable opportunity to learn what our body responds well to and gives us crucial information for future race strategies.
Give yourself time to rest and recover.
Regardless of how happy you feel about the result of your goal race, it’s important to allow your body adequate time to rest and recover. No matter how far off you were from reaching your time goal, you still put in all the hard work along the way.
Your body is tired from the previous training session and rest and recovery are crucial right now. While it’s tempting to want to get back out there and continue training to finally hit that PR, your body is likely just as tired as it would be had race day ended with different results.
Take the time to rest and recover after your goal race, and use this time to reflect and motivate yourself for the future. Celebrate the completion of a training season with some extra rest days, time off your feet, and active recovery to keep your body in peak condition for the next goal attempt.
Change up your training plan.
If you didn’t reach your race goal, you’ll likely feel a bit frustrated. After months of hard work, it’s natural to be disappointed that things didn’t go as planned. But rather than looking at your goal race as a missed PR, look at it as an opportunity to create an even more successful training plan.
You might discover that the fueling strategy you had planned to use left you with an unsettled stomach, or that your muscles were feeling a bit achy by the time race day arrived.
Use whatever you learned after your missed time goal attempt to tweak your training plan for the future. Adjust your training to fix those mistakes you made on race day, help your body feel its best, and ensure you are both mentally and physically prepared.
It’s common to miss a time goal after just one attempt, since so many elements of race day are truly out of our control. However, rather than dwelling on the past, use this attempt to propel your progress and ensure you are even more prepared for your next goal race.
Pick a new goal race.
One of the best ways to recover after missing a time goal is to channel the frustration and disappointment you feel into motivation for a new goal.
Related: 10 Steps to Achieve Any Running Goal
The great thing about running is that the opportunities are endless. Whether your marathon didn’t go as planned or your 5k PR attempt was a bust, there will be plenty more races in the future.
Use this energy you feel now to get excited about a new goal race in the future. Remember that you will have as many opportunities as you need to hit your race goal!
Never give up.
The most important thing to remember after missing a race goal PR is to keep trying. Running provides us with endless opportunities to compete against ourselves and continue to improve. Just because one race didn’t go as planned doesn’t mean they all will follow suit.
Take the time off that you need to recover, both mentally and physically, but never give up. Continue running, reach for the stars, and pursue new goals every day. Challenge yourself to improve in different ways and find what brings you joy.
Never give up, because the joy of accomplishing a goal after a long struggle is hard to beat.