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Discussing and Handling a Disappointing Race


Discussing and handling a disappointing with grace (on either side, runner or supporter) requires a deft hand and emotional tact. Link up for Running Coaches’ Corner and share your running related posts!

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Discussing and Handling a Disappointing Race needs to be done with tact and courtesy. Here are some tips for helping a runner deal with a bad race. Also, Running Coaches Corner Link up!

When You or a Friend has a Disappointing Race

If you follow running and marathoning or have friends in the sport, you likely heard about the catastrophe that was the Vermont City Marathon: the weather was so hot that the race director made the decision to cancel the race MID-race.

As the race was canceled after nearly 4 hours, many of the runners were nearing the finish, but had not quite reached it, leaving them high and dry after what had already proven to be an extremely trying experience. Making the situation even worse: the cancellation was accompanied by a great deal of miscommunication between volunteers, spectators, and runners.

And I had a client running it. When she texted me (during the race) to let me know, I was dumbfounded. My heart absolutely ached for her. Not only was this her first marathon, but she had fought through a difficult training cycle, the second half of which was plagued by a tough schedule and shoe issues. And now this. What could I say? What could I do?

Honestly, I didn’t know at first. But maybe that is ok. She told me she was in shock (as was I) and needed some time to think. As we both look back at the situation, I have placed myself in her shoes time and time again, and here are the four considerations I would want my friends to honor when discussing and handling a disappointing race.

Four Considerations when Discussing and Handling A Disappointing Race :

1) Give them a little space (but not too much)

Check in on them, tell them that you are there when they are ready, but don’t force the issue. When a bad race happens, you have to think of the reaction to it on level with a true grieving process. This is something that they have been working for weeks, if not months or years, for! They are going to experience a litany of emotions, and in my experience, it is best to let them feel those emotions without them feeling like you are abandoning them. But don’t let them stew for too long!

2) Don’t ask if they are going to go for a retaliation race

Trust me, they are already considering it, or they want nothing to do with it. And both of those decision will likely change within the next 24-48 hours. Also, asking someone if they are going to go back for a retaliation race after their goal race goes south is just… rude. Think about how much this race meant to them, and the likelihood is that their body needs some time as well. Let them decide when they are going to get back in the saddle.

3) Bring them a beer (or wine, or what have you)

Trust me, they will appreciate it.

4) Make sure that they take care of their recovery plan

Even if they didn’t run the full distance, they still did work. They might tend towards staying away from running for a while, or they might want to get right back out there. Make sure that they discuss their recovery with someone who is qualified to help them figure out their next steps. If the runner didn’t go the whole distance, they might not need to take off as much time as they would have for their A effort, but they still need to give their bodies a few days off to bounce back. Make sure they don’t rush their recovery because they feel they haven’t “earned” it.

And here is a given: Just be there for them.

They might need to rant, they might need to cry, they might start laughing hysterically. Or they might need to sit there in stony silence. Whatever they need, give it to them (within reason). Give them a few days, and then start to gently nudge them back to life.

We all will have massive disappointments in our lives at various points. Running a marathon is more than just a few days worth of work, more than a few hours worth of emotion and effort. As much as we try to rise above and remind ourselves that the training is the real test, that the race itself is just a victory lap, having a disappointing race HURTS. Support your friends and fellow runners as they go experience their emotions.

Get that chin back up with Coach @suzlyfe's advice on handling a disappointing race! #runchat Click To Tweet

On a more positive note, I hope you are all ready to rock another season of marathon training! Many marathon training programs started in the past few weeks, and good luck to you all!

Do you have any experience or advice to offer those handling a disappointing race?

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Now it is time for Running Coaches Corner Link up with Rachel, Debbie, Lora, and Myself. Also linking up with PattyErika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run!

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