Destinations Marathons

Dealing With A Disappointing Marathon

The Chicago Marathon was yesterday and it was a fantastic day for many runners. However, like all races, there are some runners who do not quite meet their goals for the race. Even worse than not meeting your goal is not meeting you goal at a race that you have traveled to. As one who has also disappointed in a marathon that I traveled to, I know how bad it feels. Hopefully, these tips for dealing with a disappointing marathon can help you get over a bad Chicago Marathon and move one (this list was taken from a previous post after my disappointing Dubai Marathon).

Dealing With a Disappointing Destination Marathon

A normal marathon training program takes between 16 – 20 weeks to accomplish. There are a lot of miles in those weeks! In my case, I covered 1,000 miles during my training program for the Dubai Marathon.

Now, add the excitement of visiting a different city to run this marathon, and it becomes a very anticipated event! A lot goes into the preparation for a trip, especially when it comes to a trip for a marathon. To take all of that excitement and preparation and then have a disappointing race is tough.

Tips on Dealing with a Disappointing Race

  • Remember, it is just a race! While it takes a lot of time to prepare and then many miles traveled for a destination marathon, it is important to put things in the proper perspective. A marathon is just a race and a race that takes just a few hours of one’s life. Try not to make it a bigger instance or event than it actually is. Remember, there are elite marathoners who run for a living who actually drop out of the Olympic Marathon because of injury or a really bad race. If they can do it, there is nothing wrong with the amateur runner having a bad race.
  • Don’t over analyze. This is especially for me. :) I looked at every little thing after the race to try and determine what it was that had caused me to be sick. I picked apart each thing that I had eaten in the couple of days leading up to the race, I checked the humidity and temperature levels from my previous races to see if that had been the cause, I checked my heart rate and pace – everything I could think of. In the end, I found out that it was a stomach flu. I found that out when my wife and one of my sons got the same thing two days later. Too much analyzing!
  • Focus on another race or event. This basically getting back on the horse! If you have had a bad race like I had, chances are that you ran somewhere between 13-18 miles of the race at your goal pace. If that is the case, you can treat that as a long run with miles at goal pace and pick another marathon 3 or 4 weeks late for another shot. I have several friends who ran a bad marathon and then PRed a few weeks later. If you had a really bad race, start focusing on a different distance for a little while. If you had a great training cycle and really had good success with your speedwork, take that great speedwork and turn it into a PR at a shorter distance. This could give you a great confidence boost plus a new PR!
  • Enjoy the destination! Remember, you are in a great new city! Do not let the disappointing race keep you from enjoying your destination. Even though I had a rough race, I still went back out that night to check out the famous dubai fountains and was very glad I did! Take in the sights and make your memories. It will definitely help with overcoming the disappointing results.
  • Have a base goal. Marathoners always have a couple of goals when we enter a race. Most have a A Goal, B Goal, and then a C Goal. In my case, my A Goal was 3:20 – B Goal was <3:30 – C Goal was <3:35 (current PR). After I was done, I had many friends tell me that I should be happy that I still finished and that I did it under 4 hours. My response was after 35+ marathons and ultras, I never run a marathon with the goal to finish. My goal was a specific time goal, not a finishing goal. However, I started feeling better when I did take those kind words of my friends realizing that I did finish in a decent time considering I had the stomach flu :). So, always have some base goal that will just give you a sense of relief should all else go wrong!
  • Don’t let a bad race ruin family time. If you are traveling to a destination race with your family, do not let a bad race spoil the vacation time you have with your family. Recover after the race and then get out their and be a happy parent. Remember that your family sacrificed time with you during your training and your focus on the race – now it is time to focus on them and make sure they enjoy the rest of the trip.
  • Go out and run. After a bad race, get back out and run! It will always feel better after that!

What are your tips on overcoming a disappointing race?

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

1 Comment

  • Have you considered running the Comrades marathon? It’s actually a 54-55 mile ultra marathon on roads, catered just like a marathon.