The best and worst thing about racing is that you never quite know what will happen. In my ten years of running not every race has gone smoothly — sometimes because things like weather and terrain took an unexpected toll on my performance, but more often because I made some dumb training and racing decisions. The good thing is that I’d like to think I’ve become a smarter runner after every failed race. Run and learn
I thought it’d be fun to share my five WORST races to date. Hopefully by reading these recaps you can avoid making the same mistakes I have!
1. The time when I hit the wall. The worst race I’ve ever run, by far, was the Gettysburg North-South Marathon back in 2013. I’d trained hard, tapered properly, and was feeling good at the start line — so good that I thought it’d be fun to go out fast and skip my first Gu. I crashed at mile 23 and ended up walking most of the last three miles. Oops. (Also, why did I wear hot pink and red? What a terrible race outfit)
2. The time I ran with a cold. Ugh, I feel the pain setting in just thinking about this race. I spontaneously decided to run the Music City half marathon last year about a week before the race. And then after I’d secured a bib (thanks to the reader who loaned me hers!) I came down with a terrible cold. I could barely breathe out of my nose when I hit the start line — and the crazy humidity on race day didn’t help. I FELT like I was running sub-7 miles the whole time but when I looked at my Garmin, I was actually running something like 8:30s. My body did NOT want to be racing that day and the whole plan backfired.
3. The time I was under-prepared and over-trained. I ran the Boston marathon in my pre-blog days and it was only the third marathon I’d ever run. It was a bit of a disaster and over the years I’ve pinned down two main causes: 1) I don’t like training in the winter but I guess I was bored that season because I did a lot of reallllllyyy long runs getting ready for the race, took very few rest days, did zero cross training, and barely tapered. So, I was pretty tired when I hit the start line. 2) I was completely unprepared for the Boston experience. I didn’t realize that I’d have to sit in marathon village for over an hour before the race and took zero food or clothes with me on the bus. As a result, I had a growling stomach and shivering body for a good 45 minutes before the race even started, which was a massive waste of energy. I did okay during the race until I came down (not up, but down!) heartbreak hill around mile 20 and my quads just fell apart. I think I cried for most of the last 6 miles. Eesh.
The time I raced on a stomach of pizza and no sleep. I was all ready to run the Virginia Wine Country half marathon in 2012, but the week before the race turned out to be completely exhausting. My grandpa had passed away and we had a huge deadline at work. I was up past midnight for days in a row. By Friday night (the night before the race) I was emotionally and physically drained, plus it was 9 pm and I hadn’t eaten dinner. Anthony and I ordered a greasy pizza and I think I went to bed around midnight again. When I woke up the next morning I felt like totally garbage and I think the grease + stress took a toll on my stomach. I had terrible stomach cramps the entire race and had to stop multiple times to use the bathroom. On the plus side, the course was gorgeous!
The time I didn’t warm up. Although it’s easy to screw up a marathon or half marathon — because in some ways, every mile is just another opportunity to make a mistake — I never really thought I could bomb something like a 5k. But then I tried running the Beyond the Battlefield 5k a couple of years ago without warming up at all… and realized that it is very difficult to sprint on dead legs. (and looking back, I just realized that the title of my recap post is “lots of cocktails and fried food followed by a 5k” — also probably not a good idea.) HA!And those are my five worst races (so far). What are your worst race stories?