dealing with disappointment

we train for months, we make sacrifices, we put our hearts and souls into training, then race day comes and its over with in the blink of an eye (although at the time it can certainly feel like eternity). 


sometimes things go exactly as planned and we have the races we dreamed of and trained for. 

but there are many times they don’t and we are left with a feeling of disappointment. 

especially with a race distance as long as a marathon, the body typically isn’t capable of turning around and trying to get the immediate satisfaction of another attempt right away.  we have to recover, and sometimes the brain and heart take the longest to recover as our muscle soreness fades away.

after CIM this year, i surprised even myself with how ok i was with this race.  in the past this race could have easily tore me down and left me upset, mad, questioning myself and my efforts, and questioning myself as a runner in general, but this year was different.  i was ok, i wasn’t ecstatic with my results and sure i wished they would have gone a little different, but i never questioned my efforts during the race and was able to walk away with a smile on my face and proud of myself.  that in itself is one of the biggest successes i could have asked for. 

CIM 219

i have been seeing this happen as marathon season comes to a close and i was asked how i deal with this and how i was able to maintain a positive outlook.  in all honestly, i am not really sure.  maybe practice makes perfect in this instance since this was not the first time i have missed a big goal or maybe i am just learning more about myself and this sport. 

there are a few things that have helped me…

look at the big picture

you just ran a marathon (or whatever the race distance), that in itself is amazing no matter what.  do not let the time on the clock interfere with that accomplishment.  we do this because we want to and because we love it, not for any other reason.

after CIM i kept reminding myself that i completed my EIGHTH marathon.  EIGHT.  i never would have thought i would be there a few years ago.   

silver linings

be able to pull the positives out of a race, even if it was a bad one.  typically you can learn a lot of lessons during a bad race and they definitely shape you as a runner.

i ran my 3rd fastest marathon at CIM.  sure it wasn’t my fastest but compared to my past “crash and burn” races, it was 11 minutes faster!  i took a risk and am happy i did, i know on another day i have that race in my legs.

new goals, new races

use a bad race to fuel your fire.  let it make you hungry and want to get out there and train harder than ever.  figure out what went wrong, what you can do to make it better and make it happen. 

i think part of the reason i was very ok with CIM is that i have boston coming up.  i have something else to look forward to, new goals to set and try to achieve and a lot of lessons i learned from my training i am excited to apply this time around.  it definitely made me hungry to train extra hard.

don’t be afraid

most of all i know i am not afraid to fail.  i will continue to set big goals for myself and i know i will achieve them.  it may not be the first time i try or even the tenth time, but i will eventually get there because i won’t accept anything less.  i think any goal worth working towards shouldn’t be easy to achieve and from experience, i know the ones that may take a few times really make it that much sweeter when it does happen.  keep working hard and don’t be afraid to set the big goals. 

it wouldn’t be as fun if it were easy.

some other posts where i talk about this subject:

hindsight – questions your efforts after the fact
q&a – how i dealt with not reaching my BQ a few times
the other side – the hard side of racing, when you don’t get your goals.

what have you done to help deal with the disappointment of a not-so-great race?

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31 Responses to dealing with disappointment

  1. Jeri December 13, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    great great great post. I needed to read this right now. Thanks for that. :)

  2. Cate December 13, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    I was NOT a happy camper after my total flop at the LA marathon, but it just motivated me that much more to pour everything I had into SF, where I got my BQ and PRd by 14 minutes!

    I am so excited to start training for Boston too…you're going to rock it (and I really hope we can do some training together!)

  3. The Laminator December 13, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    Great insight Aron! It's funny…my post last week was about learning how to deal with a bad race in the middle of the race and echoes a lot of the same points that you just made. I definitely agree with setting ambitious goals and not being afraid to fail and letting your failures lead you to ultimate success! Cheers =)

  4. RunningLaur December 13, 2010 at 8:19 pm #

    I wouldn't have been able to admit it at the time, but I was very disappointed in not performing quite as well time wise as I'd hoped to at my first marathon – which is why I went out and did the 50k just a week later.

    Looking back, I'm glad that I did the 50k because I proved to myself that I'm the runner I knew I could be, but I'm also glad that my first marathon went as it did. It was so much more worth it to be able to share the experience with my friends than to see a number on the clock. I guess it all works out for the best in the end :)

  5. RunningLaur December 13, 2010 at 8:22 pm #

    and of course, I'd like to say that how you've been able to work through your race disappointments has been very inspiring. You always seem to learn from them and progress. Boston's going to be amazing for you!!!

  6. Jamie December 13, 2010 at 8:47 pm #

    great post aron! looking at the bigger picture has always helped me.

  7. Mamarunsbarefoot December 13, 2010 at 8:52 pm #

    I've pretty much bombed all 3 marathons due to either injury or sickness. This is/was something I really struggled with. Each time I was sad, I went through the mourning. Then I picked myself up and tried again.

  8. Nelly December 13, 2010 at 10:35 pm #

    This is a great post. You learn more from times that things don't go perfect than from the times things do go perfect. I think you ran a great race – 3rd fastest marathon is amazingly fast. And you always seem to run your marathons in perfect condition, so if you set the bar high in a previous marathon it is hard to beat that goal next time. You controlled what you could control – training, eating, etc. The rest is left up to the race Gods.

    I went back through my all time race history, and really the only time I was disappointed after a race was back in high school Cross Country. During senior year I was consistently the #5-7 guy on the cross country varsity team. Then league finals came up – and it was a really hot day (I was completely clueless about hydration back then), so I ran the race dehydrated I think, and totally bombed out that race. My team ended up making CCS, but since I ran so poorly a guy from the JV team took my spot at CCS. I was really bummed that I ran such a poor race when it counted the most.

    But other than that, I can't think of a race that I was disappointed with – because I trained appropriately, and got the time I wanted to get.

  9. Petraruns December 13, 2010 at 11:03 pm #

    Really great post – and it's so true that those goals that take a while to achieve are all the sweeter when you DO achieve them.

  10. Rebecca December 14, 2010 at 4:11 am #

    I needed this post today. I just finalized my training plan for my second marathon. The first time around, I had no idea what to expect, so I was simply happy to finish. This time, I feel a different pressure and I guess I fear failure a bit. I can't let that get to me. I am going to train as hard and as smart as I can.

    You have such a positive perspective. I'm sure you will rock Boston. I'll be volunteering that day and cheering loudly!

  11. kizzy December 14, 2010 at 4:37 am #

    most of all i know i am not afraid to fail. i will continue to set big goals for myself and i know i will achieve them. it may not be the first time i try or even the tenth time, but i will eventually get there because i won’t accept anything less. i think any goal worth working towards shouldn’t be easy to achieve and from experience, i know the ones that may take a few times really make it that much sweeter when it does happen. keep working hard and don’t be afraid to set the big goals.

    great lines…keep it up!
    –I prefer running without shoes. My toes didn't get cold. Besides, if I'm in front from the start, no one can step on them. ~Michelle Dekkers – smartwool

  12. fancy nancy December 14, 2010 at 5:28 am #

    This is something that I still struggle with. I ran Boston a few years ago and did not like my time at all!! It actually sidelined me for a while…I was ready to give up on running. I love your positive spin on things. This is going to be one of my challenges for this year…look at the good instead of the bad!

    Ummm and yeah I would say 8 marathons is quite the accomplishment!

  13. ShutUpandRun December 14, 2010 at 6:31 am #

    For me even worse than a disappointing race is never even making it to the start line after four months of training…having to drop out a week before. Yes, this taught me many lessons about over training, etc. I came to terms with it after about a week of sulking and pity partying. It is all part of being an "athlete" -dealing with the highs and lows of training, racing, etc. You have to take risks, you have to bounce back. Most of all you have to keep growing and learning.

    Just my humble opinion.

    Fall down seven times, get up eight.

  14. crewser December 14, 2010 at 7:36 am #

    i love your blog! i read in your faq that you worked for an accounting firm for a while. my husband is a cpa in a public firm too so i totally relate to the stress of the long hours for tax/busy season. i keep hoping maybe he can find a job in industry too so that he can be home more during the spring and i won't have to run before the baby wakes up since he is at work all night!

  15. December 14, 2010 at 7:53 am #

    I'm so glad that you came away with such a positive outlook after this race! You still were awesome and I can only imagine how great you'll be in Boston!

  16. Morgan December 14, 2010 at 8:09 am #

    Such a great post and one that will really put it in to perspective for a lot of people. Like I said before, you always do the best job of finding the good in every run. Thank you for the bit of sunshine you always add to my day! :)

  17. Stacie December 14, 2010 at 8:53 am #

    I'm a new follower!!! Loved this post.

    When I have a not-so-great race I'm still just very thankful that I was able to get out there in the first place. I just try to focus on the next run/race coming up.

  18. Mel -Tall Mom on the Run December 14, 2010 at 9:25 am #

    I learn from my mistakes and do my best to avoid them in the future.. but Running is a different animal, the distance should be respected…and at the end of the day if I have crossed the finish line I did what I set out to do.

  19. Marlene December 14, 2010 at 9:39 am #

    "what have you done to help deal with the disappointment of a not-so-great race?"

    I turned to my friend Aron who helped me get through it! Seriosusly, I have learned so much from both your successes AND disappointments… you have no idea!

    Thanks for another valuable post.

  20. Denise December 14, 2010 at 9:42 am #

    that's the only thing that disappointed me with my philly marathon…that i couldn't just turn around and do it all over again right away. it wasn't my day, no use crying over it. you can't win them all. thankfully, reboboth was an awesome race so i know philly was just an off day.

  21. Janac December 14, 2010 at 9:50 am #

    I followed to a "T" a training plan for San Diego this year. I thought I could not have done more to prepare for a PR. Turns out, I did not PR. I was disappointed that day, but then became OK. I realized it just goes to show that on race day, anything can happen. Also, it got me excited to try a different race plan and see how that impacted the next race. I try and figure out "OK, this race didn't go as expected, what could I do in the next race to try something different?".

  22. seejessrun December 14, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    I sometimes did two cross-country races a week in high school and usually one a week in college. You can't PR every time when you race that often, so you just accept it after awhile.

    Marathons are more crushing because you train for sooo long for that ONE race and it's your only chance.

  23. Heather December 14, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    Great post, and excellent tips on how to deal with the race disappointment. I decided after several tough races to constantly remind myself that running is something I do to make me feel better about myself. If I am down on myself for missing a goal, then it's not working. So I try to keep it in perspective.

  24. Nicole December 14, 2010 at 11:47 am #

    you are wise beyond your running years. this post still hits home with me. LB was so upsetting and i'm so thankful you keep touching back to the possible let down after a race. thanks for always being there aron- i'm here for you too!

  25. Amber (Girl with the red hair) December 14, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

    I was SO disappointed after Portland. Finishing my first marathon in tears, with an injured foot and soaking wet from the 5 hours of pouring rain was NOT how I imagined it would be at all.

    The blogging community REALLY helped me put it in perspective by saying "umm, hey, you ran a MARATHON" and now that I've had some distance from it I can see what a great accomplishment it was even if it didn't go as well as I'd hoped!

  26. ERG December 14, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

    Thanks for this post. I have really learned a lot from reading both your recap and the comments.

  27. Jess December 14, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    I think I used to take races more personally, but now, I guess I just think "it's just a race." Running doesn't define who I am, so certainly racing doesn't either. It's part of my identity, but it's definitely not the whole.

  28. Michaela December 14, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

    THANK YOU for this. Just what I needed!

  29. lindsay December 14, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

    leaning on friends really helps (esp blogging buddies who 'get it') and just constantly reminding yourself that it wasn't "nothing". i have to also remind myself that the worst part about marathoning is that you are essentially "putting all your eggs in one basket", but that i will be toeing the line again soon for revenge.

    (or well not so soon as i haven't done one since april but you know what i mean)

  30. Jo Lynn December 14, 2010 at 9:42 pm #

    It's super easy for me – I never expect too much of myself, that way I can't be disappointed. ;)

  31. Amanda@runninghood December 21, 2010 at 12:31 pm #

    Love this! love your blog…very glad I found it!

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