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How to handle missing your goal race

If injury or illness is preventing you from toeing the line this fall, here’s how to pick up the pieces

urban exhausted fitness man outdoor sitting on the floor

Running is an amazing sport that offers plenty of benefits, but it also carries a high risk for injury. As the fall racing season gets underway in Canada, the unfortunate reality is that some of us aren’t going to make it to the start line of our goal races. If you’re among the unlucky ones, we feel you. Getting sidelined by an injury is disappointing; you might even feel devastated, for a time. Here’s our best step-by-step advice for how to handle the heartbreak.

Step one: accept

Many runners go through a period of denial when an injury threatens their racing plans. While this reaction is understandable, it’s also problematic. Denial can cause you to push through an injury when you shouldn’t, or try to rush the rehab process so you can get back to running, only to ultimately underperform at your goal race (and potentially also re-injure yourself). 

foot injury

That’s why the first step is acceptance. It’s tough, we know, but once you accept the fact that you likely won’t be on the start line as planned, you can switch gears and come up with a rehab plan, so you can get back to running and chasing new goals.

Step two: grieve

Accepting your fate doesn’t mean you can’t be sad about it. In fact, we encourage you to take a day or two to just be sad about your circumstances.

Getting injured sucks at any time of year; it’s even worse when you’re preparing for a goal race. Go ahead and feel the feels, just don’t get stuck there.

Step three: reflect

Once you’re (mostly) done being sad, take some time to think about your training and try to identify what you could have done differently to avoid getting injured. Did you increase your mileage too quickly? Were you getting enough sleep? How was your nutrition? The purpose of this isn’t to beat yourself up, but to try and pinpoint the root cause of your injury so you can avoid the same fate in the future.

runner in pain
Photo: Unsplash

Step four: take action

Now that you’ve identified the reason (or reasons) you got injured, the next step is doing something about it. Of course, this likely involves taking some time off running, but for most runners, simply stopping and waiting for the injury to go away isn’t enough. We strongly encourage you to book an appointment with a physiotherapist or sports medicine specialist who can help you not only heal your injury, but also prevent it in the future.

Step five: take care of yourself

Everybody’s different, so what you do during your time away from running is up to you. If it’s the social aspect of being with your running friends that you miss the most, continue to go out to races and cheer them on from the sidelines. If watching others run while you can’t sounds like torture, then wish your running buddies well and tell them you’ll see them at the after party. 

Physiotherapy for runners

Being injured is really hard, especially when the timeline for when you can hit the road again is murky. Remember, running isn’t going anywhere, so whether you have to take a few weeks off or a few months, healing your body is more important than any race. Be patient with yourself, take this time to engage in other activities or hobbies, and when you eventually return to running, you’ll appreciate it even more than you did before.

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