Runners World Articles: Archives
The Postrace Blues
I often hear the same story. It goes like this. A woman spends
months training for a big race, usually a marathon. The event is
a career first-one of those goals she always thought she wanted
to achieve but never thought, until now, that she was capable of
reaching. Crossing the finish line is the proudest moment of her
Then, for weeks following this peak experience, she struggles to
get out the door. Running, quite simply, has lost its appeal.
Oh, you, too?
Indeed, thousands of runners feel this postrace letdown each year.
And for good reason. Itís really tough to suddenly shift from a
four- to six-month training plan back to the routine of everyday
life. The higher your emotions soar on the day of achievement, the
lower you tend to feel afterward.
After running in the 1972 Munich Olympics, it took me six months
to regain my zest for training and racing. Thatís probably because
itís just so easy to depend upon that goal race for your motivation.
The good news: you can get through this slump.
All you need are the right strategies to feel mentally and spiritually
energized. Hereís what works:
Sign on the dotted line. Sign up for another race
while still training for your big day. It doesnít matter what your
new goal is, because itís okay to change it later. Even a temporary
goal will build a motivational bridge through the difficult period
of postrace recovery.
Once you hit your big day, use a calculator or training log to
plot out the running youíll need to do to reach the new goal that
now looms ahead. There are also several software programs that will
generate your next training schedule based upon a few pieces of
information. These have many advantages, including the automatic
process of logging on and receiving your daily workout. Most runners
receive a sense of motivational security from this process.
Shift gears. If your first mission was to finish
a marathon, for example, choose a different type of challenge afterward,
such as a scenic running trip. The logistics of the trek to the
trail will engage your creativity and planning skills during the
tapering and rest periods before your initial big race and during
the recovery afterward. Each trip should provide a touch of challenge,
lots of fun and a workout that will help you accomplish your next
goal. For example, try running a speed session on a wooded trail.
Rehearse your training. Thinking about running
goes a long way toward getting you out the door. The more you can
rehearse each daily run after the big day, the easier it will be
to run as planned. For example, two days after the race, visualize
that you are running and walking for 30 to 40 minutes slowly. Two
days later, see yourself out there for 40 to 50 minutes, possibly
with friends. Your running beckons. Life is good.
Get 20/20 hindsight. After the race, look back
on your training and racing strategy. What did you do right? What
should you have done differently? Analyzing a disappointing performance
will help you pinpoint key problem areas that need more work. By
doing some fine-tuning, youíll learn more about yourself and your
running, and youíll get over the race more quickly.
After a good performance, visualize what you’d do next time to
make the training experience better, faster and more fun. Write
down these notes, and the path to your next goal will be smoother
Run with a group. During the four to eight weeks
before your goal race, start assembling a social running group to
run with afterward. Social runs can entertain you as you share jokes,
gossip and running goals. Many recovering marathoners find it motivational
to work out with beginning runners. By going slower than usual,
you can easily converse with your new set of aerobic friends.
World, October 1998, p. 36
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