in General Running

Knowing When to Downgrade or Drop Out

Training is hard work, and sometimes life or injury gets in the way and you are faced with a difficult decision of whether to downgrade to a shorter race distance or even drop out entirely.

Deciding to switch to a shorter race (or no race at all) isn’t always easy. Sometimes you’ll find yourself on the fence between toughing it out and running an event you know you probably aren’t quite ready for, or switching down to something shorter and then dealing with the regret of not having reached your goal.

Here’s a few tips to make the decision a bit easier:

  • If you are injured, it isn’t worth it to run: There will always be other races, but if you run through an injury you run the real risk of doing more serious or even permanent damage that could mean the race you run will be your last. If an injury is affecting your training to the point where you are falling so far behind that you don’t think you can run the distance, then you need to listen to your body and either downgrade to gain some healing time, or drop out entirely.
  • Take a look at your training log: I sure hope you have a log of all your training, because it never lies. If you find yourself questioning how you’ll get runs done every Sunday, you should look no further than your training logs to see what’s going on. Be honest with yourself and compare your log to the training schedule. If you’ve missed more runs than you’ve done, or came up way short on your long Sunday runs, then it’s time to admit you probably shouldn’t be running the race.
  • Do a commitment check: Ask yourself, “How badly do you want this?” If you don’t have an immediate answer, then deep down inside, you’ve already made the decision. Distance running is a serious commitment. Maybe you bit off more than you could chew, or maybe your priorities shifted. If you aren’t fully committed to the race, you can’t succeed.
  • Consult your buddies: Ask the people you run with what they think. They’ll often know where you are in your training better than you might and if you tell them to be honest, you’ll often get the answer you need. Draw on their experiences as well. It’s likely that some of them have faced similar decisions in the past.

It happens

Downgrading or dropping out happens. Look at the numbers of people who sign up for races every year and then don’t show up on race day. Distance running, especially the marathon, is hard. It’s 18 weeks (or more) of full commitment and it involves all facets of your life.

Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself when the time comes to make the decision. Sometimes having the weight lifted off you mind will help you rediscover running for the love of it.

If you do decide to continue on your training journey, take the opportunity to fully recommit to the training and hold yourself accountable to that decision. Good luck!