Skip to content

What To Do When The Race You Run Does Not Go To Plan

    I recently ran the Berlin marathon; within that marathon, I ran some of my best marathon running and my worst. 

    Then, when I had finished the marathon, I ended up in the medical tent being administered three lots of IV fluids while attached to a heart monitor.

    A mixed bag indeed 🙂

    But I wanted to share my experience from the perspective of when a run goes south or does not meet your expectations.

    What is a process that you can work through that enables you to get the best from experience?

    So let’s get going…

    I had always said to my son when he played football and played the thankless position of goalkeeper…

    No one learns while they are winning.

    This is the hard truth surrounding marathon running. It is an endless feedback loop if you are willing to listen to your body and mind.

    I want to share my recent experience running the Berlin marathon to hopefully get the best from what you perceive as a failed race.

    Expectation Vs Reality.

    I had an expectation of beating my PB of 3:24 and possible running a 3:15.

    The reality was on a hot and humid day; I did not take into account the weather and ran 3:41

    However, I had set a broad goal set of between 3:15 and 3:45.


    When setting goals, set a broad range from what you might consider your very best to the lower end of the spectrum.

    This enables you to adjust depending on factors such as weather and, of course, your wellbeing on the day.

    What Worked What Did Not.

    Next, you need to look at what worked and what did not.

    For me, I hit every target I set in the race from 5K to the 20mile mark.

    Setting 20K and 20-mile PBs.

    What did not work so well was the last 6 miles which became a war of attrition 🙂


    When a run does not go as to plan, it’s very easy to look at only what did not work; however, you must look at all of the factors of your run.

    This is when a coach can be a real advantage as they can look at you from a less involved point of view.

    What Would You Do Differently Next Time?

    This is where the learning begins.

    When my son played in goal, if he felt he had had a bad game after the match, this is the process I used to get him to coach himself.

    I used to say, how would you rate your performance …

    One being terrible and ten being the very best you could play…

    But you are not allowed to use the numbers 5 and 6… Because that’s the numbers of no learning 🙂

    Then if he said 4. 

    I would ask why 4?

    He would explain all the reasons why it was so low.

    Then I would ask, what would you have been happy with today?

    If he then said, for example, 7

    Then I would ask …

    What would have to happen to get to 7?

    He would then explain the changes that he would have to make to achieve a 7.

    So in my case, I would give myself 7.

    I wanted a 9

    What would have to happen to reach 9?

    Why 7?

    Because I executed a good 75% of the race as I wanted.

    What would have to happen to get to a 9?

    Well, on the same day take into account the weather.

    Run more conservatively.

    For future marathons, build in more strength and hill running into my training plan.


    You have to find a method that helps you analyse your run in a way that stops you from overreacting to either extreme where you either don’t recognise any improvements, which for most runners is less likely.

    Or you are going the more common route and binning everything to do with the race instead of looking at what worked and what needs attention to make your next race a more successful event.