Posted by: Joe English | January 6, 2009

Motivation: So you had a bad run — get over it

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

OK folks, I’m getting on my soap-box, so stand back if you don’t want to hear this. I’m about to launch into what Dennis Miller might call a “rant”, but there will be a point to it, so please bear with me.

I went on a run today that, well, let’s just say ate me up, chewed me into little pieces, and spat me out in tiny little bits over the course of about 18 miles. It was absolutely brutal. From about mile 2, things started going downhill — figuratively speaking — and they just kept getting worse and worse from there. When all was said and done, it was so bad that I lost five pounds on the bathroom scale, which for those of you that know that means, says that I’m feelin’ it right now.

What happened, you ask? Let me start a list:
– I felt like hell.
– The run turned out to be eight miles up hill to get me started.
– I felt like c-r-a-p.
– The run turned out to be about eight miles down hill into a head-wind on the way back.
– I felt miserable.
– I got lost and ran about four extra miles.
– I felt like I was going to die for most of it.
– I was late for something, so the extra hour put me in a panic.
– Did I mention that I felt like hell?
– I ran out of water and gu.
– I felt like dirt.
– My stomach started a watery revolt about half-way through.

– Did I mention that I got lost and ran four extra miles in this condition?
– Las Vegas drivers appear to have never seen a runner before, because I almost got hit about sixteen times — which is basically once per mile.
– And I felt like hell.

Ok, so now that you’ve got the gist of how things went, let’s just skip right over the excuses and potential causes of it all, because that’s not the point.

Here’s the point. Did I come home and throw my shoes in the garbage pail and give up running? Did I swear that I would never run another mile so long as I live? Did I pout and hang my head all day? No. No to the first two anyway.

My point is that as runners we all have bad days. As running coach Jack Daniels has been quoted as saying, “there’s no such thing as a good run that is fluke. But you can have fluke bad runs.” What he means by that is that you can only run as well as your capabilities, but everyone can have an off-day.

The important thing is to let out your frustration if you must — pouting for an afternoon is OK. But after that, you need to think about it this way: you’re going to have bad runs here and there. So long as you have more good runs than bad ones, then you really shouldn’t let it get to you. On average, we just want to keep trying and from there we will keep improving. In the world of running, I think it is safe to say that “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” But don’t take that literally.

So the next time you have a miserable, horrible, disgusting run, just do what I’m going to do. Put it behind you. Learn something from it if you can. But then tuck that baby into the can of past runs and don’t let it infect your love for running.

I had a bad run today. I still love to run. I’m over it.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Managing Editor, Running Advice and News



  1. From someone who used to live in Vegas . . .it was and never will be one of my preferred places to run!!

  2. Joe,
    You are my hero. I’m so glad I am no longer alone in working at overcoming the bad day. After 37 years of running… I’m still working on having a good bad day.

    But, you are right on!

  3. thanks jo, ill keep this one for the day it arrives – but I’m a way off 18 miles so does that mean the effects diminish in proportion?

  4. I’m not so sure about that. I think I recall having devastating short runs — but the long ones just take longer to get through!



  5. Great post Joe. When my clients talk about the bad runs, I help them learn ways to use those moments as great times to practice resilience techniques. It is in those moments that we can do wonders to train our minds. However, I must admit, when I am personally having a really bad run, the only technique that works is finding my couch as fast as possible.


  6. I know you wrote this over two years ago, but I am training for my first half marathon and just came back from a bad run – side stitch the whole way, a cold headwind, and I had to, ahem, “go” the whole time – so I sat down to find some online motivation. I only did five and a half miles this morning before I threw in the towel and my pace was about thirty seconds slower per mile than usual. Man, was I bummed! Your article was just what I needed to get myself out of the all-or-nothing “why am I even doing this at all?” thinking. Already I’m looking forward to a better run tomorrow.

  7. Thanks for giving me a good laugh. Needed it big-time after doing a 20 miler from hell today – my longest run ever in training for my 1st marathon in about a month. Thanks for the pep talk just when I needed it!

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