There’s really no way of bouncing out of a bad run:
They’re shitty, they suck, and there’s really no getting around one. Once a bad run starts, you’re kind of in it for the long haul.
However, there are two good things about bad runs:
1) Everyone has them
2) They make you a better runner
I realize these things are really difficult to remember when your legs feel like lead, your head is aching, and every morsel of your being questions why you ever try to run in the first place. When bad runs happen, these are the things we experience—and it’s hard to focus on anything else.
Case in point: This morning, I had a really crappy run, and I’m still a little irked by it. It was mainly my own fault, which is perhaps the biggest reason I’m still beating myself up about it, however taking the blame didn’t make things go any smoother. I was wayyy too dehydrated to be going on a longer run. I got cocky (as we runners tend to do) and was all, “Psh, whatever…I’ll be fine.” Unfortunately, that sneaky little bugger that operates the universe decided to make me pay for being an irresponsible runner.
My legs were dragging, my head felt heavy, and about halfway through I got a massive side stitch that last, oh, until the end of the run. At one point I actually had to keel over a stop because the cramp was so excrutiating. I could hear the Running Gods laughing at me. Yea, yea, yea…that’s what I get for potassium deficiency.
At the end of the run, I really just wanted to be done. As opposed to my normal state of being amped up and satisfied and all the stars-and-rainbows things that you’re supposed to feeling after running, I was really just happy to be done. I had had a bad run, and the best part about it was that it was over.
Now, these less-than-ideal runs definitely suck, no question about it. Trust me I was thinking some not-so-pretty thoughts through those last few miles, including stealing a bike from the child riding past me. And no, I’m not kidding, and yes I do feel bad. However, we can learn a lot about ourselves when we’re at our low points as runners, and I’m starting to realize those points are equally as important as the fab!awesome!stellar! runs that we always hope for.
Foremost, we are given the opportunity to recognize what poor preparation does to our bodies. As a runner, we cannot expect our best performances to just happen when we are dehydrated, improperly fueled, burnt out, poorly stretched, or even just sleepy. If we are to expect our bodies to cooperate on our runs, there are necessary tasks we must do to ensure that we don’t drive ourselves into the ground.
And certainly, situations arise where proper preparation is somewhat out of our control: A friend’s birthday is the night before a long run, our calves never fully relax no matter how much we roll them, or our work schedules make 8 hours of sleep virtually impossible. These are things that can be worked around, and while they may not be ideal—the definitely don’t inhibit our ability to run.
But what I’m talking about is when we just let basic principles slip through the cracks. Take your’s truly, for example. Yesterday, I sweat an insanely disgusting amount in spin class. Like, think of the NBA players when they get interviewed at half time and they’re dripping all over the reporter. That was me, maybe worse. Then, I managed to only drink one water bottle the whole day. ONE. Don’t ask me why, it was stupid and I just forgot that I was planning a 12 mile run in the morning.
Fail. And a rookie fail at that.
However, today I have been uber intent on making up for that mistake. I’ve drank a ton of water, and will probably continue to until my pee is clear and I’ve gained 5 pounds in water weight. Lesson learned, for now. And that’s the beauty of bad runs—they break you down so that you’re forced to admit what needs to change. I know that when I’ve run too many days in a row, my body lets me know it, and it’s not very kind in doing so.
Gaining this sense of humility makes us take better care of ourselves, and it also helps us to respect the sport of running. More specifically, it helps us to respect ourselves more for being able to run. Bad runs make good runs feel like gold, and we undoubtedly would take our good runs for granted if we weren’t thrown a few gnarly ones every so often.
So the next time you have a bad run, instead of letting your mind get angry that it wasn’t all peaches and sunshine—let your body do the talking. Our bodies are wonderfully responsive, and when we listen to want exactly they want, or don’t want, we gauge a better understanding of our own habits and needs.