To the uninitiated last week was just another week in the middle of May but to the ultra running fan boys and girls among us it was a biggie. That's because we were lucky enough to have not one but two super tough biennial races going on at the same time. This meant 7 days of dot watching the Dragons Back (a brutal multi day race through the Welsh mountains) and the Hardmoors 200 (an equally brutal non stop 200 mile race along the Cleveland way).
Races like these that combine, huge mileage, rough terrain and tight time limits have a way of breaking even the hardiest entrants and this year was no different. Only 35% of the folks who lined up at the start of the Hardmoors were able to cross the line 200 miles and a lot of hours later.
That means that over half those who entered that race will be spending a good chunk of this week thinking about what went wrong for them and they won't be alone. We all suffer set backs, whether that's a bad race, an injury or just a decline in motivation. But just because set backs happen to us all doesn't mean we can't overcome them.
You are allowed to be upset or frustrated that your running isn't going as well as you want. Just because running is something that you do for fun does not make it unimportant. Give your self permission to be sulky about a bad race or an injury but just keep it in check. Spending three days wearing all black to mourn Thursdays slightly slower training run is overkill but taking a day to come to terms with a disappointing big race is a justified and normal response. Don't be embarrassed that this means a lot to you.
Once the dust has settled, it's time to take a long an impartial look at what has gone wrong. If it was a race that went badly, then I find it really helpful to write out a race report just for me. Describing how I felt and what I was thinking at different points, starting before the race and working through to the end and how I felt afterwards. This way I can look for where things started to go wrong, maybe it was that I'd packed my waterproofs badly, meaning that I was soaked before I got them on or maybe it was that I stopped too long at each aid station.
If you're injured or lacking motivation, think back and try and pinpoint the first times that the problem flared up and then follow it through the present day.
Now that you have spent some time uncovering the route of the problem, now it's time to come up with a plan to fix it. Sometimes this is incredibly simple, like packing you waterproofs at the top of your bag or buying a new pair of socks to stop blisters. For many however this step can be a little tricky as every case is different, all I can recommend is doing your research and seeking out the advice of those who know what they are talking about. Running coaches can help with programming, physios and strength coaches can help with injuries and imbalances, while experienced athletes can help with race advice and motivation.
The single most important thing here is that once you have a plan - stick to it. A plan no matter how well written is only as good as the commitment you give it. Set backs happen to us all but that doesn't mean they have to define us. Follow these steps and you'll be back running with a spring in your step in no time.