Running: Some days, you're a stud. Some days, you're a dud.


Not every run can be a good run.

We know this intellectually. We read about it. We hear others talk about it. So we think we are mentally prepared for the occasional unwelcome – and usually unannounced – arrival of a shitty workout. And yet, when it happens, none of the above can diminish how truly awful a bad run feels.

I am lucky. I'd guess that 85-90% of my runs feel good. I enjoy them and return home feeling energized, confident, and looking forward to my next run.

Then there are the 10-15% of workouts that just plain suck. Like last Saturday's run.

I slept in then set out for my last hard workout before my self-imposed week of "prehab not rehab" (less mileage, more cross training). I had planned to run 5 miles easy, 3 fast-ish middle miles at any pace between 7:20 and 7:40, then 4 easy home. 

 One of the many photos I found reason to stop and take during Saturday's long run.

One of the many photos I found reason to stop and take during Saturday's long run.

It was a beautiful morning – crisp autumn air, a light breeze, dramatic cottony clouds, runners in their colorful half-zips and tights trotting by me, smiling and nodding. But I was not feeling the running love.

My legs felt like logs from the start, and I could only manage one fast-ish mile. I barely squeaked out a 7:39 and ended up running 12.59 miles at 8:22. Horrible? No. But the point is, I felt horrible. And worse yet, I could not execute the workout I had planned. 

 These legs need a break.

These legs need a break.

Was it mental? Maybe partly. Everything, including my brain, is tired after being "on" all year. I've been training since January for one race or another. It started with physical therapy and coming back from injury to run the Boston Marathon, and ended with a string of summer and fall races. 

So I think the "bonk" was mostly physical. My body is demanding rest, which is why I'm going to take some down time from running next week. Making matters worse, on Friday night, I stayed out too late, drank too much cava, and ate too much sushi.

Sorry, not sorry. Moderation in all things, including moderation.

So I slogged through my run, finding more excuses than usual to stop and take photos.

I believe there are lessons in every run if you look for them. As I suffered through that bad run, I thought about people who are new to running. And how if this run were my first impression of running, I would probably not feel any desire to do it again. Good perspective for a running coach. The bad run also reinforced that my decision to cut way back next week is a cogent one; my body is demanding rest and repair.

Running is about consistency

Speed, fitness, strength and endurance are built one day at a time, one run at a time, over years not weeks. One run, good or bad, is not going to define you.

Your consistency, however, will define you – getting out there and getting the work done. Day after day. Even on the shitty days. Especially on the shitty days.

Especially when it's bitterly cold or brutally rainy or windy.

Especially when your job stress is through the roof.

Especially when you had a fight with your boss, your best friend, your partner or your kids – or all of the above.

Especially when you overindulged in sushi and cava the night before.

Life has its ups and downs. So does running. But running can also remain the constant in an unpredictable life, provided you give yourself adequate recovery time. Being able to run 6 days a week has helped me stay sane amidst some amazingly difficult times in my life.

The more consistent you are about running, the more ups there will be. And the easier it will become for you to focus on your running, regardless of what else is going on. The dividends of your daily runs will eventually pay off: in stamina, strength, maintaining a healthy weight, confidence, speed, and [insert your own metric of choice here].

I had only planned to run 12 miles on Saturday, but I ended up running an extra kilometer, for a total of 12.59 miles. Maybe I only did 1 mile fastish instead of three. But that extra kilometer was something. The fact that I stayed out there and completed my run was something.

Every run is a good run. In retrospect, even the bad ones are good. Because they present mental and physical barriers that we learn to overcome.

We finish the bad runs. Because the bad runs make us tougher.

How do you handle bad runs?