Most runners lament bad workouts. It’s funny, but I’ve always felt that a bad day running is better than a good day doing most anything else.
Have you ever had a bad race? What did you do? How did you react? What did you do tactically during the race? Did you try to push the pace when you felt bad? What were you thinking? How did you change your thinking? Was there a pattern to what you were thinking? What were you focused on? Did you successfully shift your focus? What was your pre-race routine like?
Much like goal paced workouts and specific race tactics (i.e. kicking, negative splits, etc.) if you do not rehearse your mental approach to a bad day or bad stretch in practice, you won’t suddenly and magically be able to call upon some kind of “mental power” to overcome your tough times on race day.
If you cannot answer the questions I pose above you have a problem. Your initial problem is identifying what went wrong. You need to go back and relive that bad race and get answers. Next, you design mental interventions, thought patterns, cue words, focus shifting strategies, and pace experimentation that will get you through those tough times. And finally, you practice those elements in your training. When do you do this? Of course you can practice during any run. However, it becomes more real if you practice while having a bad day or bad stretch of running. That is how you will really know which approach really works for you. Use them. Get adept at multiple approaches so that if on a given day one doesn’t work, you have another one waiting in the wings to rescue the day.
Bad runs are opportunities. Don’t waste them!