How to Pivot When You Can’t Run the Race You Planned

person running in the rain

Life can sometimes throw a wrench in our running plans; we’ve certainly seen it happen over the past few years. Between quarantine rules and COVID-19 cancellations, many runners have had to miss out on events. But even as things settle down, there will always be occasions (e.g. extreme weather, injury, illness), when we just don’t make it to the starting line. It’s always a disappointment, but a missed race doesn’t always mean a lost opportunity to prove your fitness. Follow our tips and you’ll be prepared the next time you have to change your plans.

Allow Yourself to Wallow or Freak out a Little

Whether you’re injured or the event is cancelled, it’s normal to go through the stages of grief (denial, anger, sadness, etc.). Training for something and then having it not pan out is always a bummer! So, mope around a bit if you need to or vent to your running buddies. Just try to set a time limit on your bad mood—aim for a few hours or a day of crankiness rather than an entire week.

Assess the Damage

There are dozens of reasons why race day plans might go awry, so part of the next step will be dialing into your unique situation. If the race is cancelled because of COVID-19 issues or bad weather, you might be able to find a back up race the same weekend (or soon after). Similarly, if you’re experiencing an illness like the stomach flu, you might be able to rest and come back for a race in a week. However, if you’re diagnosed with a stress fracture, it’s likely that any racing will have to be put on hold for the next few months. If you think you can pivot and run a different race soon, it’s time to get planning!

Make a Plan B (and Maybe a Plan C and D…)

If you decide to run a different race, it’s important to research your options and lay out an updated plan. If the new race is within a week of the old race date, you can probably continue tapering/running easy. However, if the new race is a few weeks (or months) further down the line, you may want to include a few more workouts or long runs.

If you’re not sure what to do, this is a great time to seek the advice of an experienced running coach! If your new race is more than a few months away, consider taking a week or so to rest up and regroup. If an organized race isn’t an option, think about running the race virtually or with a small group of friends. Race day might not look like you planned, but there’s usually some way to salvage the experience.

Try to Find a Silver Lining

When a race is cancelled or you have to DNS due to injury, it can be tough to think positively, but there’s often something/em> good that you can focus on. Maybe you had a niggling ache that could use a few days of rest, or in the case of extreme heat or thunderstorms, you wouldn’t want to run in those conditions anyway!

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