There are some things that you should never say to a runner post-race, but yet, someone always says at least one of these…
1) Bet you think you could have gone faster now!
Regardless of whether or not the runner may be thinking this, it’s never a good thing to say at the finish line. Racing takes a lot out of the body both physically and mentally. The last thing runners need when they’re already drained is the emotionally strain of beating themselves up about their pace.
2) So, when’s the next race?
Let them enjoy the afterglow of this race. Yes, runners are most often highly-motivated individuals and may have another race in mind, but immediately post-race is not the time to begin that discussion. The exception, of course, is if a marathoner just qualified for Boston.
3) I didn’t pay for parking, so we need to run back to the car.
Post-race is the time for walking or jogging, not for running. Especially not at the pace of someone who hasn’t just finished a race.
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4) The course is pretty easy, right?
Some races may be net-downhill, but that doesn’t make them easy, it makes them fast. The difficulty of downhill running is constantly underestimated.
For optimal recovery, a runner needs food within a half hour window of finishing a hard effort. So the food station is never one that you should skip. Grab a banana and a bar to-go and then have another larger meal at home.
6) I could have gone faster.
This is the last thing a runner needs to hear, regardless of it’s veracity.
7) So-and-so beat you!
Similar to the above, just don’t do it. Some exceptions may occur if a child beats a parent for the first time. The first race that I crossed the finish line in front of my father (who’s an experienced runner himself), I’m pretty sure this is the first thing that my mother and siblings yelled at him. He took it in stride and didn’t respond by saying, “Well, she trained and I didn’t.” Generally speaking though, comparisons are unnecessary and tend to leave a person feeling badly about a race that they might have otherwise been very proud of.
8) Don’t you think you’ve had enough to drink?
Runners can lose a lot of water during a race, especially if it’s a longer distance like a marathon, or the day is warm. It is not unheard of for runners to lose 10 pounds in a single marathon, due to water loss. So, no, they haven’t had enough to drink.
Getting a good night’s sleep the night after a race is paramount to the recovery process. Most of the body’s healing takes place during sleep, which is why getting at least eight hours a night is ideal during training (most elites get even more). So, even though it may be tempting to go out and celebrate a PB, try and hit the sack at a reasonable hour and sleep in the next day, if possible.
10) Your life can go back to normal now, right?
People in many runners’ lives can relate to the experience of pre-race training. The runner needs to get more sleep, tends to go out drinking less, watches what they eat more. etc, etc. What many spectators/spouses/supporting friends may fail to realize is that this is the preferred ‘normal’ for most runners.