How many of you have felt a let-down after a big race? How many of you after months of preparation for a marathon feel in the dumps soon after you’ve completed your race? How many of you had feelings of depression, the blues, or simply been seemingly sapped of all motivation after that big effort?
The good news is that you aren’t alone. The bad news is that this phenomena is very real and it happens at all levels of competition (yup – even Olympic Gold Medalists). Other good news is that you can do something about it.
There could be several underlying causes to the whole post-big event let down. Some of you may be thinking that it occurs more with people who do not reach their goals in that race (i.e. make a Boston Qualifying time). But, I will pose to you that in fact it is more common in those who do in fact reach their goals.
Failing to meet a goal most certainly is disappointing. And it is absolutely normal to have an emotional reaction to that. However, my experience with athletes actually indicates that when an athlete fails at a goal – they tend to pick themselves up and continue the fight after a very short time. Even in the case of epic failures I’ve seen renewed focus and energy to either persist and attack once again that race goal or to fervently pursue OTHER distances and goals.
Contrast that to the successful endeavor. You labor for four or five or six months (or even more) to get that Boston Qualifier or that All-American status in your track event. Suddenly it’s race day. All your preparation pays off. You did it! Now what?
The very thing that gave us purpose day-to-day isn’t there. We ate to succeed. We slept to succeed. We worked out to succeed. We cross-trained to succeed. We told everyone we know what we were working towards. Everyone knew our goal. For many athletes this driving force and all encompassing focus for months is gone.
And truth be told most athletes lived all these months to experience something that actually was accomplished in a split second. [Remember, a goal isn't reached until you cross the finish line. Only when the stop watch stops did you officially reach your goal.] In that split second there is relief, celebration, satisfaction and pride. But the reactions to the accomplishment for many runners ends up anticlimactic; all those months of work and discipline for a split second.
Those positive initial emotional reactions may last for awhile. The story of how you made it may last a lifetime (just ask any runner about the “special” run and most will tell you a story… as if it were yesterday).
For some the fleeting post-race high is replaced with a lingering sense of loss; lack of motivation; and let down. A short break from the disciplined build up to the race is not only normal but healthy to take. Mind and body need some down time. But, if it lingers very long you are actually most likely suffering from a type of post-competition depression.
What should you do if this happens to you?
Get back to basics. Run just to run for awhile. It’ll take pressure off and still get some good chemical action going in your body (which of course helps us think better).
Run with others – especially if you are accustomed to running on your own. This is a sound change as socializing assists us in moving on.
A major reason we experience this loss and lack of motivation is that we forget our purpose in running as well as to set our next goal. Purpose and goals focus our behavior and thoughts.
Re-establish your purpose for running.
Set short-term goals.
Change your goals to new distances, new races, new destinations or race venues. This might add some “umph” to your running.
Variety in trying some unique racing can be stimulating. For instance, enter novel races like Mt. Washington race in Hew Hampshire (only one hill); the Empire State Building Stair run; The Bisbee (AZ) 5K (up hillsides on stairs); the Jerome (AZ) Hill Climb; the Mud Run; and join group ventures like Hood to Coast and RAGNAR Relay teams.
If your symptoms persist you should seek professional help. You could be suffering from something other than merely post-race blues or a “down” period.
So, to break out of those post-race doldrums take action; lighten up; run with others and bring fun back into your running life.