How to target new goals and transform race-day experiences into future success.
Becky Brudwick met her goals and then some in her second marathon, in 2010, clocking 3:29, her personal “fall-on-your-knees-at-the-finish-line-and-cry” time. Then the teacher’s motivation faded. “I felt like, Well, I’ve spent all this time working toward one goal, and it’s over,” she says.
“Now what do I do? I needed something else to get excited about.” So Brudwick, 45, of North Mankato, Minnesota, decided to try trail running. The twists and turns of the off-road gave her the jolt she was looking for, and she upped the stakes again: In May, she’ll run the Ice Age Trail 50 ultramarathon.
Whether it’s after your first race or your 25th, you may experience postrace blues. The finish line comes down, the crowds go home, the adrenaline high disappears, and you might feel down afterward, like Christmas is over. “It’s totally normal,” says Cindra Kamphoff, Ph.D., owner of The Runner’s Edge, a runner-focused sports psychology practice in Mankato. “You had this clearly defined goal and made it a priority. Maybe you ran the race of your lifetime, or maybe you were disappointed. Either way, you wake up the next day and don’t have the goal to work toward or the training you’ve become accustomed to, and you may feel a little depressed.” Avoid a postrace slump by borrowing one or more of these motivation strategies.
You finished your first 5-K, which you entered on a whim. You’re eager to race again—the sooner, the better.
YOUR NEXT MOVE: Find a structured training plan and set a new goal.
WHY IT WORKS: Crossing a finish line for the first time leaves many race newbies starstruck by the enormous sense of accomplishment. Challenging yourself with new goals can boost your running. But in a rush to hold on to that feeling of pride, don’t make the mistake of aiming too high (I’m ready for a marathon!), too soon (Next month!). Overextending yourself invites injury and disappointment, says Jennifer Burningham, a running coach in Portland, Oregon. She suggests hiring a coach who will develop a personalized training plan and guide you to your goals safely without injury.
While you usually run alone, last Sunday’s half-marathon sure felt…long (and lonely, despite the other participants).
YOUR NEXT MOVE: Join a club.
WHY IT WORKS: ”A group can introduce you to different training techniques, mental tricks, or persuade you to try races or distances you hadn’t considered,” says Kamphoff. What’s more, “running with others pushes us to go harder and faster in workouts, which will naturally help you improve come race time,” she says. But don’t just stick with one or two buds; branch out and talk to a variety of members who will offer a wide range of experience and advice. The enthusiasm of the group will rub off on you.
You crossed the marathon off your bucket list and now want something different to light your fire.
YOUR NEXT MOVE: Change your routine, routes, and races.
WHY IT WORKS: The appeal of trying something different can make running feel fresh and prevent burnout. And as much as runners love a good routine, if you get bored with the day-to-day, you’re more apt to skip a workout, says Heather Hausenblas, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Florida and exercise psychologist. Add excitement to your week by signing up for adventure events (like a muddy obstacle race) or unusual distances (say, a seven-miler–bonus: a new PR), or scouting out unfamiliar routes or trails to run. Kamphoff, for example, once spent a summer running every street in her hometown.
After your best marathon, you feel on top of the world and want everyone to experience this same high.
YOUR NEXT MOVE: Invite someone to start running and show them the ropes.
WHY IT WORKS: There’s something to be said about the value of teaching someone your love for the sport. “Experiencing running with a beginner can reconnect you with why you got interested in it in the first place,” says Kamphoff. If you’re looking for something that requires less commitment, consider volunteering at a race. “Watching others reach their goals is a big motivator,” says Burningham.
You were excited about your first race but bummed that it was a solo adventure.
YOUR NEXT MOVE: Get more social (media) interaction.
WHY IT WORKS: If you’d like more company to prepare for and enjoy your next race, join the event’s Facebook page. “Social media can be incredibly powerful in connecting runners,” says Kamphoff. She recommends reaching out before you go. A simple “Who wants to meet before the race?” wall posting should do. “If you didn’t know anyone before, you’ll suddenly have 10 or more new friends, which can really boost your spirits,” says Kamphoff. When you feel supported, your motivation to run soars, she says. After the event, suggest meeting up for celebratory beers or Gatorades to exchange e-mail addresses. Stay in touch by scheduling periodic group runs, tweeting about your training, or setting up a new Facebook page for the gang.
Postrace Do’s and Don’ts
Sidestep potential postrace snags that can sap motivation
Talk to someone about what went well and what didn’t in the race. Analyze your performance in a positive light. “It will preserve your confidence, which studies show is the best predictor for good future performance,” says Cindra Kamphoff.
“Plan your next goal right away,” says Heather Hausenblas. “Make it a bit more challenging—but still doable.” Some ideas: Sign up for that Santa Shuffle, increase your mileage, or add high-intensity intervals into your weekly routine.
A pair of new running shoes or a reflexology treatment for your busted feet will let your sense of accomplishment sink in. Better yet, donate an old running jacket to Goodwill and gift yourself a new one to keep you inspired over the winter.
Once your body has recovered from the race rigors, get back out there, says Hausenblas. Taking too much time off could return you to square one. Remind yourself that you also run for your overall well-being.
FEEL better: In the first weeks after a race, focus on recovery. Listen to your body and consider running on trails or grass to help your still-sore muscles.
CAPITALIZE ON YOUR MARATHON TRAINING AND FINISH WITH A FAST 5-K OR 10-K THREE TO SIX WEEKS AFTER YOUR 26.2-MILER.
This article, written by Jessica Girdwain, first appeared in Runner’s World