minutes per mile blog

the 5 worst races of my life (so far)

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)_DSC0088

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. country music half marathon 2015

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.boston

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! IMG_1544

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!20140524_071219And those are my five worst races (so far). What are your worst race stories?

15 thoughts on “the 5 worst races of my life (so far)

  1. HANDS DOWN the heart mini half in Cincinnati I ran back in march. I made two major errors in judgement: wearing a rain jacket–the humidity outside was already insane and i was more sweat soaked than I would have been if I had just gone without it. Error 2: Going out too fast. I felt good and decided to go out fast because why not! Then I totally forgot about an absolutely killer hill and then my legs screamed “let’s stop” the last 5 miles of the race. Lesson learned… no rain jackets and save the fast running for the end :)

    • oh YES, it’s so hard to decide what to wear on race day especially if there is rain in the forecast. but yeah, those rain jackets heat up real quick. i used to be a big running rain jacket wearer but now my motto is definitely “less is more” haha

  2. The second time I ran the Pittsburgh half marathon, something was off with my shoes or socks! I had massive blisters–each foot was essentially one giant blister itself. I stopped at a health tent at 10.6 because I could hardly even walk anymore–it was definitely a hit to my pride. The health/sweep bus picked me up…and dropped me two miles away from the finish line and festival. I had to walk two miles anyways and was bitter that I essentially completed the mileage, but no finish time, medal or heat sheet at the end!

    • UGH, i’ve had friends whose races were ruined due to blisters and it sounds like one of the most frustrating ways to go down. sorry to hear that!

  3. I don’t run well in the heat. Anything over 75 and I’ll die. So, it’s no surprise that my worst races have happened with the sun was blazing and the temperatures were well over 85 degrees. Three races come screaming back, but my overall worst was Ironman Silverman, a half Ironman out in the mountains of Vegas. I was over-trained, uncomfortable, mentally fatigued and had bad relationships with both my coach and myself. Combine all that with a 95-degree day, and you have a recipe for disaster. (And thanks for sharing your stories! It helps knowing that everyone has bad races from time to time.)

    • i can’t imagine doing an ironman, especially one in 85+ degree temps! yikes. sounds like everyone has terrible race stories. it sucks, but i guess it’s just part of life :)

  4. My worst was the Middle Half in Murfreesboro in 2014. It was my 4th half, and it was a solid 10-12 minutes (I’ve blocked out the specifics) slower than my PR about 5 months earlier on a very hilly course. I don’t have a specific thing I can point to other than my mental state. I had wanted to train for a full, but due to some health concerns I put that hope on the back burner and signed up for the half just a month or so beforehand. I was physically prepared (and the course is not challenging) but I was disappointed about not doing a full, and I think I just lost my mojo.

    • YES! that’s kind of like what happened to me in boston. i’m still not sure exactly what went wrong but it was just a bad day. win some, lose some!

  5. I haven’t raced a lot, so I don’t really have any that I would label as worst, because even though there was something hard about each of them, I am still glad I did them.

    My first half ever was run just after my birthday and after having the flu. I missed at least 5 days of running and was in bed with chills and a fever just 2 days earlier……..BUT it was my first half, and even though I was slow, I did it (and I won a certificate for free shoes……..I chose some sweet Mizunos!)

    My Music City half was in 2013………..only 5 days after the Boston bombing. I didn’t know if the race would even happen, but it did, with lots of police presence (cars, bikes, on foot, on horseback!) and guards at every trash can. Even though it was raining steady the entire time (and we huddled in mcdonalds shoulder to shoulder with strangers) and I was soaked before the start and had a hard time finding my boyfriend at the end, I loved the experience and felt a duty to run that day to show our strength in spite of the bombings.

    And then there’s the weird banjo playing hillbillies from last year’s Franklin half marathon that scared me a little…………..this year the name change has me worried……..Hillbilly half………..please Nashville, don’t make this cool race a cheesy one!
    So even though some races have been tough, I feel like they all had redeeming qualities!

    • ha!! i didn’t know that they’d renamed it. i’ve heard that the franklin half is really hilly! those are some good stories!

      • Yeah, I am a bit nervous about how it will be……..hope they don’t go overboard. The shirt design I like, but the medal is camo…….why mess with something that works?!

  6. First, I just want to say I love your blog! A friend recommended it to me this morning on our run and I shouldn’t have sat down to read when I have stuff to do bc I’m sucked in!

    Worst race would for sure be my first (and only) full marathon. The 2014 Music City Marathon. I had trained using the Hanson’s Marathon Method and I think I did it wrong or something because the whole point is to not hit a wall. I hit a serious wall around mile 20, almost passed out in a porta potty, and ran/walked the last 6 miles. I was so disappointed in how tired and burnt out I was. I am literally just now making the decision to put all of that behind me and enjoy running again – yes, I have been burned out for the past 2 years because of that race. I want to run another full, but training and course will have to be different. Oh! And I ran last year’s music city half with a horrible cold as well and it was simply miserable. I feel ya girl.

    Thanks for writing and being so honest about your runs! Definitely inspiring!

    • oh man, that’s quite a story! is 2014 the year it rained really hard during the race? thanks for reading!