If you’ve never had a bad race, you’re not trying hard enough.
One of the best ways to improve your running is to get out there, make some mistakes and – this is the key part – actually learn from them. Making the same mistakes over and over again is not a good thing and it doesn’t make you experienced. It makes you an idiot.
Sometimes it may take a couple of instances for a lesson to really sink, but trying to learn from every experience is absolutely vital.
As a coach, you don’t wish a bad race upon any athlete you work with, but if it does happen it can become a valuable learning experience. If you have a bad race, or even DNF, as soon as it has happened there is nothing you can do about it. It’s in the past so now we make it a positive.
Having a bad race isn’t a good thing when it’s happening but as soon as it has happened it’s more valuable and worthwhile than a good race, if you use it correctly. That makes sense, right?
Common mistakes in ultrarunning would fill this whole website, let alone this one article, so we’ll go through one that trumps all others. Runners – beginners and experienced – blame their training for how their race goes and, while it may dictate your potential on the day, it has very little to do with what percentage of that potential you hit on race day.
What I mean there is that if you don’t train properly you may well be shit, but just how shit you are on race day comes down to how you manage a whole host of other factors: pacing, nutrition, hydration, electrolyte balance, mind games, route knowledge, personal admin, kit choice, weather management, how long (or little) you spend at checkpoints – the list goes on.
When it gets to race day it should be your potential on that day you think about, as there is nowt you can do to change the past. If you blame the training and don’t look for other learning opportunities, you’re just making excuses.