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Race went badly? Survive and thrive with this simple technique

Practise using the acronym ADAPT to solve race-day problems on the fly

runners at race start Photo by: Photo: Unsplash/miguel-a-amutio

Run enough races and you’re bound to have one that doesn’t go as planned. Whether it’s GI issues, unexpected weather or not feeling mentally there, it’s easy to feel like all is lost and your race is derailed. Endurance coach and ultrarunner Jason Koop of Colorado Springs, Colo., has a simple method to handle all manner of problems that crop up during races, and it can be applied to any distance or style of event.

Memorize Koop’s acronym, ADAPT (Accept, Diagnose, Analyze, Plan, Take action) and use it in training or competition when problems arise. Koop’s acronym uses “a series of steps that are analogous to problem-solving techniques that have been used by Boy Scouts, mountaineers, adventure racers and the military, among others.”

Photo: Canadian Running

By using the acronym, you can identify steps to focus on when you are struggling, or “at the lowest of low points,” Koop says. With practice, you’ll be able to run through the steps in seconds, and you’ll be able to pivot and salvage a challenging race, whether on road or trail.


Koop wants you to accept things as they are. “Accept how you are right now, however bad that might be, and get over it,” he writes in his book Training Essentials for Ultrarunning. “Acceptance of the situation moves you from the past into the present. Accept first, and then you are ready to move forward. Your stomach hurts and you are way off-pace, but you’re present in the moment.”


Quickly assess your situation and determine your problem. Koop says this step is easy–keep it simple and to the point. ” ‘I have an upset stomach,’ ‘I am light-headed,’ or ‘I am frustrated’ will work perfectly,” he explains. Don’t worry about solving your problem, just recognize it.

woman trail running
Photo: Unsplash/Greg Rosenke


Now that you’ve accepted your problem and diagnosed the issue, it’s time to analyze the situation you’re in. If you’re running a longer race, how much time do you have until you hit an aid station? For a shorter one, maybe consider what process goals (goals that are not time-based) you can focus on. Now is the time to determine whether you need to find a washroom, stop and fix your shoe or resolve to grit it out.


This step requires some brainpower as you determine how to extract yourself from the situation. “Your plan incorporates your earlier analysis of the situation and the means at your disposal. It takes the wheres and whats and weaves them into concrete steps that can lift you out of the hole you have dug,” writes Koop. Determine your next step from the analysis you made.

Sylvia Nordskar
Photo: Golden Trail Series/Marthon du Mont-Blanc/the.adventure.bakery

Take action

“Problems do not fix themselves. You as the athlete have to do something deliberate to fix them,” says Koop. “Put your plan into action. Take action–by force if necessary.” If you need hydration and calories to solve a mid-race bonk, make your way toward the next aid station and find some fuel. If your footwear is a fail and you just want to finish the race, put one foot in front of the other as you head to the finish. Stay in the moment on race day, and be prepared to make changes to adapt to situations as they arise.

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