The preemptive exit from a race. Nothing is more demoralizing than having to make the decision to miss a race due to injury, a breakdown in training, or an unexpected life event. It happened to me this past spring—our beloved yellow lab passed away about a week and a half before the race. Needless to say, any efforts to maintain my training were replaced with crying sessions, emotional eating, and more crying. I’ve been through the pre-race exit and let me tell you—IT’S OK! It’s a tough reality to face but recovering from it—emotionally and physically—doesn’t have to be difficult. I’m here to help coach you through those post-race-exit blues!
1) Release the dragon: Step one after making this difficult but necessary decision: call your running buddy (whether it’s your training partner or a fellow racer) and let.it.all.out. It’s important to unleash those frustrations and self- pity remarks with someone who understands and will most likely return the favor in the future.
2) Sign up for another race-PRONTO!: The weekend I decided to step away from my own race, I was already researching half marathons I could easily jump into in the summer. Having another event on your calendar will get you psyched to start up training again and keep you motivated throughout the recovery process. Plus, it makes telling people you walked away from the race a lot easier. Let’s face it, no one enjoys informing coworkers you aren’t going to run the race you’ve been gabbing about for the past 4 months. This way, you can say “An injury has sidelined me but I’ve assessed the situation, am working on getting healthy again, and have already signed up for another race in the fall!”
3) Stay away from wine: Seriously, you need to stay positive and healthy during this period—it’s crucial for your recovery. Maintain healthy eating habits and don’t drown yourself in the bottle for pity purposes. You don’t want to end up listening to sad music while looking at photos of the race you were going to run. *Not* speaking from experience.
4) Boost yourself up: Know what makes you feel strong and confident and DO IT! For most of us, this is running. Focus on alternatives like a song that that gets you pumped up, a powerful speech or phrase you can tape up on your wall, or do something motivational like purchasing new running gear! Stepping away from a race is something every runner experiences. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, guess what—it will. It’s important to develop a post-cancelled mental routine so you can rebuild your confidence and get back on track.
5) Engage in the running community—they’ll engage back!: Running puts a lot of stress on the individual performer but that stress can be distilled through the amazing community of runners that are easily accessible online, in your community, or even at work! When running champ/prodigy Jordan Hasay found herself walking away from her second big marathon in a year due to injury, she was bombarded with positive thoughts and compassionate messages on her Instagram account. No judgment or bullying; instead, a plethora of supportive messages appeared from strangers who experienced the similar setbacks in their running career. In return, Jordan has shared a few of her cross-train workouts on her social accounts to help other runners recover. Every runner experiences a pre-race exit. Don’t internalize your frustrations—reach out! Someone will be there to talk to you!
6) Cross train: We hear it. We hate it. We must do it. Feel free to jump into the common cross training exercises: swimming, biking, elliptical. Or, spice it up with some fun alternatives: rock climbing, kayak/rowing, fight club—some of these activities may not give you the cardio you want but will certainly keep you active and help you unleash any bottled up anxiety.
7) Keep a Running Journal: Use a running journal to log your daily workouts and add positive comments (ONLY POSITIVE COMMENTS) to each entry to help you reflect on your progress. I started a running journal after I walked away from my marathon and it has changed my whole attitude about running! Bouncing back from a race exit can lead to a lot of “used tos” and “onlys”—“I only ran 2 miles today…” um, 2 miles is amazing! That’s two more than you would have done had you sat at home. Celebrate it! A running journal helps you appreciate any distance which is crucial as you rebuild your body after an injury. If you need more help, turn your log into a GoogleDoc and share it with other runners. Help each other stay on task by writing down your weekly goals and commenting on your partner’s runs to keep them motivated.
8) Get Goal-oriented: When training for a race, you often have very specific workouts each day that follow a particular order. To help get back into the groove of training, try making more flexible goals. For example, decide you want to get three runs in during the work week instead of planning each individual day. This gives you more space to work around your busy schedule, injury, or emotional roadblocks and yet still progress while your body recovers.
Walking away from a race is heartbreaking. You regret the wasted training time and might even think you’ve let yourself down. But DON’T! Trust me—you made the right choice. I have never met a runner who cancelled their race said “It would have been better to run.” No. It would not have been better. And you know that deep down. Stay positive. Stay motivated. You’ll get there. In the words of Bruce…
Someday, girl, I don’t know when,
We’re gonna get to that place
Where we really wanna go
And we’ll walk in the sun…
Grace lives and runs in the Windy City.