Good and Bad Running Days

by - 12:04 PM

On Tuesday I had one of the best runs of my life – and I shouldn't have.

I had had a weird/semi-terrible day; I was in New York between two different conferences and all signs pointed to me having a super crappy run. I was dreading it.

  • I was exhausted – I had been on my feet, networking for 12 hours the day prior and had walked at least 2 miles around the city that day.
  • I was mentally strained – a combination of feeling ridiculously lonely while staying in a hotel smack in the middle of times square (read: my personal hell) paired with anxiety from putting our first offer in on a house.
  • I was hung-over and super dehydrated – no explanation needed. 

Being a runner of 15 years, I’m used to my share of good days, and bad days. There are a myriad of physical and mental factors that can cause you to have an “off” day or a good day. This article from Technically Running does a great job of explaining the science behind running fatigue. But then sometimes for absolutely no reason at all, you can just have a bad day.

I was gearing up for a bad day. Sitting in my hotel room, looking down 7th Avenue to Central Park, I was just not feeling it. I warned my friend Emily who I would be meeting later for dinner that I was in every sense at that moment, a glass case of emotion.

Ron Burgundy Glass Case
I feel you, Ron.
"Go for a run. You'll feel better," she said. I knew she was right from a mental perspective, but I had also had a pretty brutal run on Sunday. I was barely able to do 5 miles and was seriously considering backing out of my half marathon.

"I mean, it's the PARK. You have to go. Look at instagram - you are going back to a blizzard." So I went. (Thank you Emily!)

 And then something amazing happened.

Running in Central Park
Hitting Central Park at dusk

I had one of the best runs I can ever remember. I'm not quite sure what happened; I spent the rest of the night trying to figure it out, but it was one of those runs where you feel like you can just go forever.

I even hit the first mile way too fast at a 7:05 pace. My runners high kicked in at mile two, and I made the decision to attack a 6 miler then and there. It was heaven.

A great habit to get into to always keep a log after both good and bad runs to identify trends that may be affecting you more than you realize. Both MapMyRun and the Nike+ app have pop ups that allow you to enter notes, mood, surface type and weather. Nike interactively pulls in weather which I really like.

When I'm training for a race or triathlon, I always like to take a second and log mood and other variables to help me figure out ideal conditions. I've read that 90% of variables are within your control - it's that other 10% that can give you an awesome or terrible day for no reason at all.

That could be a race day. If it is, accept it, move on, and sign up for another race. Don't get frustrated - I was frustrated after my run Sunday, and this was definitely the kick in the pants that I needed to get myself psyched for my half. If I wouldn't have pushed myself to go that night, I would still be in that same negative place about my training.

Running Shoes in Central Park

I was a totally different person after I finished that run. Even though every bad-run checklist item was staring me in the face, subconsciously and mentally I just must have needed it.

So, the next time you are going through the list of reasons your run that day will probably suck, just force yourself go anyways. You may be happily surprised.


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