My Biggest Takeaway from My Worst Race

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Eight years ago I ran my worst half marathon. It wasn’t just one of my worst finish times, it was hands down the worst half marathon I ever ran — and I’ve run a few doozies! Including the race pictured above. I didn’t injure myself, but I had GI issues, which I never have — except for that one race.

I thought I trained really well for this race. Race day dawned with perfect running weather — and that has happened very rarely in the 20 or so halfs I’ve run. Mr. Judy, Chester, and Lola were with me at the start line — the only race the dogs were able to come to the start. The course was relatively flat for New England.

The catch? Despite what I thought was a great training cycle, two weeks before the race my knee started to hurt. I didn’t seek advice from anyone. I didn’t really have a running support system — I’d only been running halfs for two years and hadn’t had any real major problems before.

I decided on my own to just stop running the two weeks before the race in the hopes that whatever was bothering my knee would simply go away.

Big mistake. Huge.

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A beautiful day & dogs at the start. What could go wrong?

So how’d the race go?
It started out just fine. It continued just fine for the first six miles. I remember running past a house with spectators on the front porch relatively early in the race.

By mile six the pain came back. By mile ten I was walking, and every step was more and more painful. Running was out of the question. I remember coming back by that same house with the same spectators still there, encouraging me to run. Except of course I couldn’t.

I actually called Mr. Judy. Not to come pick me up, but to let him know what was happening and that I would finish much later than expected.

Was it worth it?
In a word: NO!

We had booked an AirBnB on Cape Cod (remember, this is eight years ago!), and Mr. Judy was very excited to go to an ice cream place for a sundae post race. Except you had to walk to it, and I was in way too much pain to walk. No sundae for me.

I remember laying on the couch with Chester, my little shadow, curled up beside me.

It would be months, really, before I was able to run pain free again. I’d signed up to run with a group in the Fall, but I wasn’t signed up for a race. At first I couldn’t even run a mile without pain.

Every week, though, I was able to run a little bit further pain free. By the time I got to a 7 mile run, I knew I could do it and I signed up for a race. It was a redemption race, and I snagged a PR — pain free.

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I learned from this race and snagged a PR at the next. Run Happy, indeed!

Final Thoughts
Your running support system is crucial. I should have seen a doctor or a physical therapist, although I actually never did — not for that pain. I should have already been going to a chiropractor for maintenance. I should have at least asked for suggestions online (although that can be a bit dangerous).

Most of all I learned that sometimes, it truly is better to never even start — to DNS. Ignoring problems don’t make them go away. Had I gotten diagnosed, I either would have had the advice to not run the race — or gotten the advice I might have needed to run the race without injuring myself.

Finally I learned that it is definitely possible to come back from a really bad race and have a great next race!

Was there ever a race you toughed out, but shouldn’t have?
What did you learn from your worst race?

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Linking up with Zenaida Arroyo and Kim @ Kookyrunner

This week I am also joining up with the new Runners’ Roundup linkup.

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34 thoughts on “My Biggest Takeaway from My Worst Race

  1. Had many bad races for different reasons. I’ve never run one with an injury. I also when I started running went to a doctor. That resulted in a quick recovery back in 2011 and a walking half half.

    As I wrote last week my bad races come from training for a PR and not getting one. My goals have changed to being chill about the race and its results. Not over training. You need fresh legs to have a good race. Also you need a support system. At least I do. During your runs and at the race.

    Glad your worst race was followed by good ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve had many races where I’ve trained hard, but while I might be disappointed if they don’t go well, I wouldn’t usually term them a bad race.

      Maybe Annapolis qualifies because it totally sucked the life out of me, but that had nothing to do with training, really.

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      1. I guess we all have different definitions of a “bad” race.

        I can run with pain as in stress fracture and broken bone. I never thought of them as bad races. Should I have stopped during the race? yup. lol

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, these are great lessons. So, so hard to DNS a race, and probably even harder to DNF. Sometimes it really is the best choice though.
    But everything is a learning experience- glad you recovered from that and went on to get your PR! There’s always another race.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That was an important lesson. Glad you recovered and got a PR.
    I know it’s difficult for us to stop running but sometimes we need to do it.
    After some injures I learned to see my running doctor when I feel the first pain. It worked.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Did Mr Judy at least bring an ice cream to your couch? I’m sure you needed one!

    That’s a good point about not seeking out advice and not having a running support system. For a long time, I underestimated that too.
    Only through reading blogs did I realize how valuable it is to strength train, stretch and foam roll and above all, to get professional help when the pain doesn’t go away!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My one and only DNF was from a 10K race I should not have even started. I optimistically thought the weird aches/pains would work themselves out (I’d just run a 5K prior, the same evening, and this was the second race of the night). One mile in, things were getting worse and I pulled over. I found a course volunteer and surrendered my timing chip (it was zip-tied to my shoe) and felt zero remorse for my decision to quit. But, I went back a year later and brought home a 3rd place AG, so redemption was mine. The lesson: listen to your gut, do as it dictates and leave the ego at home.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My worst race was out of arrogance – I’d run my first marathon and thought I could give up stretching, yoga and extra sleep and just run a half two months later off nothing much. Some kind of bum muscle went a few miles in and I walked-ran the rest of it. The worst thing was I’d promised to take my friend Trudie round her first half and ended up having to pass her over to our friend Stu to look after!

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  7. wow so you never found out what was causing your knee pain? Glad you were able to bounce back and come back stronger. Running in pain is never worth it! I have made that mistake once before as well and ended up with a stress fracture

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So far, knock on wood, no stress fractures. My self diagnosis (after the fact) was IT Band Syndrome. Relatively certain that was it.

      Although it always seems as though there something waiting to go bonkers!

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  8. I also made the very poor decision to run a race when I shouldn’t have. I had ITBS and even though I had just started seeing a massage therapist therapist a couple of weeks before the race it wasn’t soon enough. Long story short, I couldn’t run for months after the race, and truthfully I could barely even walk properly. I never made that mistake again, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, relatively sure that was my problem as well. Walking resolves within a week, maybe a couple, but getting back to running pain free took much longer. Sorry you went through something similar — definitely not something I’d wish on anyone!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve toughed out a few races, but it’s ended up ok. Not the lesson I should have learned, right? After my injury, I’m at a point where I prefer not to DNS, but am super comfortable with taking my time and not pushing for a PR if I’m hurting.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So happy you had such a different experience for your next race! What a great comeback!

    When I first started running, I ignored knee pain I had and just kept pushing through the pain, telling myself this was normal and I just had to “be tough”. Huge mistake. (surprise, surprise!) I Ended up having to go off running for about 5 weeks. I’m really glad I had that lesson early on in my running career.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow, what an experience for you! So did you find out why your knee was turning? Every race experiences gives us a lesson to help us improve our next race experience. However, sometimes things happen that are out of our control.

    Thank you for linking up with us!

    Liked by 1 person

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