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Good Sportsmanship after a Bad Race (Coaches Corner)

Let’s talk about good sportsmanship after a bad race. I had a fantastic race this weekend at my goal half marathon, but that doesn’t mean that everyone did! Link up with Running Coaches Corner and share your sportsmanship stories.

Double Suz Today! I am taking over Nicole’s Blog Fitful Fitness and discussing how I have integrated Crossfit into her marathon training plan!

This weekend was a great racing day for me. I nailed my A time goal (if you discount the brief bathroom break), I ran exactly the race that I wanted to run, and I felt great when I finished. Not only that, but Alex was there to see it, and he was even there to run the 5K portion!

I am a huge proponent of proper Race Day Etiquette: thanking the volunteers, saying sorry if you accidentally cut someone off, cleaning up your mess and not taking too many samples, and not stopping dead as you finish your race (and causing the person behind you to collide into you). I will admit that I don’t usually stay long after the race is over to cheer in the last person, but I have done so in the past, and I have been one of those at the end!

Just how SHOULD you handle a bad race? Good sportsmanship is so important, and it is time to talk do's and don'ts. Link up with Running Coaches' Corner! good-sportsmanship-after-bad-race-coaches-corner-28/

After crossing the finish line of the Mag Mile Half Marathon, I reunited with Alex, we discussed races, and we started to make our way out of the finishers’ area to the after party (to see my friends at Luna Bar) and then to head to brunch. As we were walking up Columbus, Alex pointed out a few of the top male finishers of the half marathon. He then proceeded to tell me something that REALLY irked me.

Apparently, the 10th(ish, not for certain!) male finisher crossed the line to cheers and congratulations from the crowd, and he not only scowled but actually rebuked the well-wishers, saying how unhappy he was with his time. 

Don't pout after a bad race: how to deal with disappointment and be a good sport when you are disappointed

Please realize that I totally understand having a disappointing race. So much so that I have written a post dedicated to how to talk to someone who has a disappointing race! I learned much of that from my years of riding, from my years of having trips (rounds in the ring) that I was unhappy with, and learning how to handle the various reactions from people as they tried to talk to me after. 

I get it. I know what it is like to compete and finish in a way that most people would dream of but still to be unhappy with your performance. But you never have any excuse to act like an ass. 

Yoda knows you need to get a grip. Just how SHOULD you handle a bad race? Good sportsmanship is so important, and it is time to talk do's and don'ts. Link up with Running Coaches' Corner! good-sportsmanship-after-bad-race-coaches-corner-28/

Not acting like an ass doesn’t mean stuffing your feelings down and pretending everything is all and well. But it does mean having some perspective and gratitude.

Good Sportsmanship After a Bad Race


  • Pout like a little brat, Take out your frustrations on others, or not respond at all
  • Beat yourself up over a bad race, unless you did something morally reprehensible
  • Try to “school” people over why your race was “bad”
  • Refuse or throw away your medal on site (what you do at home is your business)
  • Make it all about you
  • Punish yourself for a subpar performance (by not refueling, not resting, doing more miles than you need to)


  • Take a deep breath, look people in the eye, and say, “Thank you. I appreciate you cheering me on!”
  • Graciously accept your medal, food/goodies, and go find a quiet place to process your feelings. Ask for some space, if necessary.
    • This is both for your own protection (so that you can deal with what is going on in private) but also to protect others (who might be celebrating!)
  • Remember that there will always be another race, if you choose to have one. (Supporters, do not tell us this, it will only anger us. Let us remember it for ourselves!)
  • Congratulate others on a strong race. You may not be happy that they beat you, but face it, they ran a better race. That is worth admiring!
  • Remember that your slow is someone’s untouchably fast. ALWAYS remember this!

Above all, remember this: you are the representation of our sport. The first handful of finishers set the tone for how the public understands us “runners.” You many not have run the race that you wanted, but you still have an obligation to be gracious in defeat and to uphold the standards of our sport. 

Subpar race? How to/how NOT to handle the aftermath #sportsmanship #runchat #coachescorner Click To Tweet

Tell me what else you would add! To keep it positive, what are some of the best displays of sportsmanship you have seen after a bad race/performance?

I am linking up with myself, Rachel, Lora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPatty, Erika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Nicole, Annmarie, Michelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday, and Ilka and Angela for Food and Fitness Sunday.

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  • Reply Kimberly G

    Ugh that’s horrible! Even if I have a bad race I’m always thankful to cross the finish line. There are so many people that wish they could run and they can’t so I think people should always keep that in mind, just to keep everything in perspective.

    September 14, 2016 at 6:31 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Preach to that lady!

      September 17, 2016 at 7:14 am
  • Reply Lauren

    I think that volunteers actually really make the race that much greater! Saying thank you goes a long way!

    September 14, 2016 at 6:35 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Think about it–we wouldn’t have a race without the volunteers!

      September 17, 2016 at 7:13 am
  • Reply Jess run pink

    Excellent post!! Bad races come with the territory of being a competitive runner. We must accept that and move on. It’s *so* important to thank those who cheer you on and all the amazing volunteers. No one pays them to be out there! Having a gracious attitude is vital to your own good health. I hate that man acted like that.

    September 14, 2016 at 6:48 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Doesn’t it make you sick! I wish his mother had been there to tell him what for…. but then again, she might have encouraged the behavior!

      September 17, 2016 at 7:10 am
  • Reply Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    That is horrible! Keep it in perspective peeps!!!!
    My favorite tip is your slow is unreachable for someone, so be sensitive to that!
    Great post and thanks for the linkup!

    September 14, 2016 at 6:52 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you, Julie! xoxo

      September 17, 2016 at 7:08 am
  • Reply Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner

    I’ve seen so many examples of bad sportsmanship at my son’s high school lacrosse games. Most of this actually comes from the parents more so than the kids!

    September 14, 2016 at 6:59 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I know! Some parents need to be taught a think or two!

      September 17, 2016 at 7:05 am
  • Reply Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home

    Great, great post! I ran a half marathon last year and an acquaintance (I’m reluctant to call her a friend because of her behavior) crossed the finish line in tears. She finished in 2:00:xx and was mad because it was over 2 hours. Even though it was a PR for her! Her behavior was embarrassing, really. The rest of us tried not to roll our eyes. I get it, you are disappointed! But remember this: YOU GET TO RUN!

    September 14, 2016 at 7:05 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      We both know what it is like to not be able to run–and though missing a particular goal can sting, put some benedryl on it and move on!

      September 17, 2016 at 7:03 am
  • Reply Laura @ This Runner's Recipes

    I think Meb at the Olympics this year was the ultimate display of good sportsmanship after a race. The ability to run is such a gift that why throw a fit if one race doesn’t go well?

    September 14, 2016 at 7:06 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Meb just rocks. He is the ultimate ambassador for our sport!

      September 17, 2016 at 7:01 am
  • Reply Megan @ Meg Go Run

    Luckily, I have not see much bad sportsmanship, but maybe that is because I don’t race a lot! I always remind myself, even when writing about my races on my blog, that there are people reading that would maybe KILL to get the time I got in a race, and if I am too much of an ass about poo pooing a specific time, then what’s that say to someone else who doesn’t run near that time?

    One time several years ago at a trail race, I came in second woman and the third woman said to me after the race, “I would have beaten you if we were on the road.” I was so taken aback by her comment I didn’t know what to say! Of course now I have all kinds of snarky things I could have replied with… But I suppose I am ultimately glad I didn’t.

    September 14, 2016 at 7:31 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Yeah… I don’t know what to say to that! I’m glad that you didn’t feed into it.

      September 17, 2016 at 7:00 am
  • Reply Jen @ Pretty Little Grub

    Great reminders Suz. It’s definitely easy to get into a negative headspace and be disappointed by your race, but it’s never okay to treat others poorly because of it. Especially those who are cheering you on.

    September 14, 2016 at 8:45 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Seriously–they are doing this out of the goodness of their own heart!

      September 17, 2016 at 6:59 am
  • Reply Sarah

    Great post. It is always important to keep things in perspective. Your bad could be my totally awesome and vice versa. Being gracious (and classy) is totally important in all things in life. This was very common in the figure skating world and I am so glad that I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by coaches who would never have allowed such behavior.

    September 14, 2016 at 8:54 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I think that we need coaches in every arena who don’t allow for spoiled brats. And yes, you can be spoiled by your own talent!

      September 17, 2016 at 6:58 am
  • Reply Jessica Marie

    One thing I’ve always loved is that the racing community has such big warm open arms. I found that out at my very FIRST race. It’s so incredibly touching. The people cheering! Soooo touching to me. That guy’s behavior completely corrupts that. Guys are naturally more competitive, but still… That’s so disrespectful to the people there to support. Maybe he needs a break from the sport for awhile to get some perspective. I like how you said that a “bad” time for them might be untouchably fast for someone else. *me, me!* I’ll likely never win and I admire even the people in 100th place!

    September 14, 2016 at 9:01 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      it’s like when people say “I only ran a mile.” I support each and every mile, and you should be proud of each and every mile!

      September 17, 2016 at 6:58 am
  • Reply Suzy

    A typical race for me includes a lot of smiles, waves, nods and “thanks, guys!” to the volunteers along the course… for the first half of the marathon. By the second half I’m usually starting to get cross-eyed and near-dead, but I’ll manage a weak smile or something. This last race, I still had energy to keep up the thank yous and waves right to the end which tells me I probably had a little too much left in the tank, but who gives a S. It’s a good day when I can run at all.

    September 14, 2016 at 9:07 am
    • Reply suzlyfe


      September 17, 2016 at 6:57 am
  • Reply Emily

    Wow, this is so so good. This really humbles me and reminds me to be grateful instead of ungrateful, even when I don’t achieve the goal that I had. The people cheering you on TRULY want to cheer you on, as I’ve been on both sides (the racer and the side lines). And it kind of crushes them when you react in an unkind way. REminding myself that I’m an ambassador for Christ, an ambassador for running, really reminds me that I need to be so mindful of how I finish. <3

    September 14, 2016 at 9:31 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It can be hard to push through disappointment, but if you project that on to others, you are only perpetuating it, rather than moving on!

      September 17, 2016 at 6:56 am
  • Reply Bri

    So true! Especially if you have a bad race but your running buddy excels. Always be happy for them even though you might feel jealous – not every race can go as planned!

    September 14, 2016 at 9:55 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And it will all come together for you at some point!

      September 17, 2016 at 6:55 am
  • Reply Amy

    This is a great thing to talk about. I once knew a guy who threw away an Ironman medal at the finish line because he didn’t get the time he wanted. Thanks for writing this – very much a thing to keep in mind as we train and race. Also a big fat CONGRATULATIONS on your great race!

    September 14, 2016 at 10:26 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I remember that story from your podcast with Denny, and it blew my mind. Just sucks that people feel that way. And thank you!

      September 17, 2016 at 6:53 am
  • Reply Suzlyfe's mommy, Clare

    When you, as the winner, get congratulated for your success, remember to congratulate those who came in behind you.
    Be a good winner! Today is your day, tomorrow may be theirs.
    The words “thank you” should be given to those who’ve made the race “run” well, regardless of how you finished.
    Even if you did not finish as you wanted, know that there are those who may have had to pull out for some reason.
    Help them to be good losers and at least smile and silently acknowledge their efforts.
    Being as good loser is hard, being a good winner is harder, and more important in the end.

    September 14, 2016 at 10:26 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Just be good, people! Be good to each other!

      September 17, 2016 at 6:52 am
  • Reply Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine

    I totally agree. And I just finished reading Born to Run (which I had started listening to as an audiobook but it was so much better to read) and it was really such a reminder about supporting each other with our running. It’s sad when people forget that and let their anger get the best of them. Sure, a bad race is frustrating but we still need to demonstrate good sportsmanship.

    September 14, 2016 at 10:36 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And with PE and recess getting cut from schools, where are they going to learn it!

      September 17, 2016 at 6:50 am
  • Reply Lindsay

    My husband is so good at this! Even if he had a bad race he would go congratulate his competitors and compliment their performance. He’s amazing and so are you!

    September 14, 2016 at 10:57 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      So are YOU don’t forget it!

      September 17, 2016 at 6:48 am
  • Reply Mary

    Great Post Suz! I’ve noticed the horrible sportsmanship that’s displayed in today’s sports world. Athletes not being happy for others, pouting, making excuses and just being sore losers. No matter is you win or lose you should compliment others and cheer them on. Thanks for reminding me how important that is 🙂

    September 14, 2016 at 11:11 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I just feel like there is no excuse! WHY do people do this!!

      September 17, 2016 at 6:45 am
  • Reply Rachel

    Well said. That’s a shame that guy was such a poor representation of our community.

    September 14, 2016 at 2:32 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I know! It really saddened me.

      September 17, 2016 at 6:37 am
  • Reply Allie

    I couldn’t agree more! I was battling with another female athlete at a local 5k, vying for second place, and I pulled away in the last 200 yards or so. As soon as we crossed I turned around to say “congrats” and “thanks for pushing me” and she was scowling at me, turned her head and walked away. I was stunned! I have never witnessed anything like it before or since.
    It’s one thing to have a bad race (I have had plenty) but it’s another to act like a complete ass!

    September 14, 2016 at 3:55 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Um. JUST NO. That is so unforgivable!

      September 17, 2016 at 6:37 am
  • Reply Linda @ Veganosity

    What?! I’m just grateful to finish a race. I can’t imagine behaving like that, regardless of what you’d hoped to accomplish.

    September 14, 2016 at 4:05 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Yes, but you are a well raised and adjusted person

      September 17, 2016 at 6:36 am
  • Reply Lora @ Crazy Running Girl

    Great tips!! Bad races do happen, but I think we can all learn a lot from Meb — just be grateful for the opportunity and “run to win,” whatever that might be that day.

    September 14, 2016 at 5:54 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And do pushups at the finish!

      September 17, 2016 at 6:29 am
  • Reply Ilka

    All well said. There really is never a good enough excuse for bad manners. How I love the people who make a race all about themselves – I can never respect a runner who does this, no matter how good their time is.
    Your posts are some of my favorites Susie! I love that you are such a talented runner with a down to earth attitude!

    September 14, 2016 at 7:12 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you so, so much, Ilka! That comment means so much too me–truly.

      September 17, 2016 at 6:27 am
  • Reply Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy

    Saying thank you and congratulating other people goes such a long way I think.

    September 15, 2016 at 3:12 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      We all just need to be gracious!

      September 17, 2016 at 6:25 am
  • Reply Janelle @ Run With No Regrets

    I have definitely had to be “talked down” after a “bad” race when I was down in the dumps. I always like when people cheer for me though, lol! These are really great tips on handling race day disappointments.

    September 15, 2016 at 7:46 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      We’ve all been there–all of us! Glad you had people to help “talk you down!”

      September 16, 2016 at 3:55 pm
  • Reply Kimberly Hatting

    This post is SOOO timely (ahem, frustrated half marathoner here). As disappointing it is to run a “bad” race, I always try to remember there was a time I couldn’t even run a 5K without walking numerous times. And I’m never gonna be an elite, so I try to be thankful for what I can do…even if I can’t always get my body and mind to do it 😉

    September 15, 2016 at 7:52 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It is hard to be humble and to keep perspective–it shows how much something means to you. And when you figure out that mind-body connection, let me know, mkay?

      September 16, 2016 at 3:22 pm
  • Reply Kristy from Southern In Law

    This is such a great post! You can’t have your best race every single one so these do’s and don’ts are so important to remember!

    September 17, 2016 at 12:22 am
  • Reply Angela

    Great Review! Love the tech shirts & medal!

    September 25, 2016 at 9:19 am
  • Reply Claudia Smith

    Great advice, my dear! Sportsmanship is something all athletes in the world should consider. And I love the part that you said what we should do and not after races. Thanks for sharing!
    Claudia Smith recently posted…25 Healthy Smoothie Recipes Refreshments to Keep You in ShapeMy Profile

    October 8, 2016 at 2:33 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you! I agree.

      October 9, 2016 at 2:47 pm

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