The man who has clocked more sub-4-minute miles (136) than any runner on the planet says: "I give myself an hour, two hours tops, to be upset or angry about a bad race. I think about what went wrong, and why it might have gone wrong, but I don't beat myself up about it."
2. Investigate the problem
Turn to the pages of your training log. Work backward from race day. Was it wise to run four repeat miles on the track just six days before your assault on your 5K PR? Like a good detective, look for clues to the crime.
3. Plan step by step
Try a three-step approach to setting race goals: 1) a "doable" goal, a race time you've achieved in the not-too-distant past; 2) a "midrange" goal, attainable but challenging; and 3) a "dream" goal. Dream goals don't look so ridiculously lofty after you've surpassed your doable and midrange objectives.
4. Give yourself a break
Schedule in your rest period. Not just a day or two, but several weeks of regeneration in which you don't run at all. Cross-training (swimming, cycling, strength training) can play a role in this process and keep the "but I don't want to get out of shape" demons at bay.
5. Get outta town
Seek out a race where it's highly unlikely that you'll know anybody (let alone their PR!) on the starting line or even anybody on the sidelines. Out-of-town racing can sometimes allow you to take the brake off your brain and take a risk.
6. Try the coach approach
A good coach can act as a sounding board and help you avoid some of the land mines of training and racing. If you've had a string of disappointing races, and you suspect that lack of direction in your self-styled program might be part of the problem, then a coach might be part of the answer.
7. Train your brain
Top runners frequently visualize a good race. They picture themselves getting a good, clean start, settling into their pace, hitting their splits and whipping up a strong finish. It's a simple mental technique that all runners can incorporate as part of their warm-up routine.
It's time to move on! Find and register for a race in your area!