Make That Running Slump Just a Bump in the Road

Despite the pretty shoes, the feet just. aren’t. moving.

I’m a runner.

If I’m not reading for school, I’m probably reading a running book (or two). I think about running (over-think, probably) when I drive to work. I run five days a week (I’d run more if my body could handle it). I dream about running. I love to run.

Until recently.

Since my unfortunate fail at Winderemere Marathon, I haven’t had very many runs where I’ve finished feeling exhilarated. Almost none where I’ve felt like I could run forever. And now, the night before a run, I dread it.

Five miles feels like 26.2, and I think I ran faster a couple of marathons ago than I can run five miles right now. All of this would be okay, except that this is a critical time for my running: I’m supposed to be working on my running form and building a base before my next training cycle.

Instead, I’m in the midst of a running slump. And it sucks.

Last year, Rosemary posted her tips for getting through a running slump – and her first step, to recognize and admit it, was harder than I thought. But I’m ready to admit it and along with getting back to basics and shutting down the inner voice that wants belittle my running speed, distance, and motivation, I’m going to try a few things that have worked for me in the past.

What do I do when I’m in the middle of a slump?

1. Take a break. This one’s simple. If I don’t feel like running, I don’t! Sometimes this means a day off, sometimes a week. This one is always hard for me to believe, but the world won’t end if I miss a scheduled run. But if a break doesn’t help, what next?

Run somewhere pretty. I ran by this in San Francisco and it helped me forget about my slump for a few miles.
Run somewhere pretty. I ran by this in San Francisco and it helped me forget about my slump for a few miles.

2. Make running fun again. I find a new route, find a new running buddy, or join my gym’s running group. I even made my sister join me on her bike, and caught up on her life. The run flew by and enjoyed it.

3. Sign up for a race. I put my money where my mouth was, and registered for my target half and full marathons (in September and October). Just typing my credit card number into motivated me to get out and run. Having a goal automatically gives me purpose, and that’s huge motivation to run.

4. Fun race. Related to #3, I’m talking about the color runs or obstacle runs here. Register with a group of friends and focus on fun, not finishing times.

5. Hide the GPS. Sometimes the best way to rediscover my love of running, is just… to run. Without worrying about pace, I remember why I run. Because I love how it makes me feel.

6. Find some inspiration. I love to pick up a good running read like the ultimate running read Once a Runner by John L. Parker Jr., What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, and The Long Run: A New York City Firefighter’s Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete by Matt Long. Whether I am reading about great runners or the inspiring journeys people take to run, it makes me want to run. Like now.

I’m seeing the light at the end of this slump.

If you’ve ever been in a running slump, what did it take for you to finally admit it? What do you do when you’re in a running slump? 

Ultrarunner, adventurer, academic, and feminist. Running Across the USA in 2021. I write about ultrarunning, adventuring, and the intersection of endurance athletics and life.

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  1. I’m stuck in a rut and have been since last fall. I can’t get back out there after running a half marathon in the pouring rain. My goal is to run one mile this holiday weekend and see how that goes. I still feel like a runner, as I’ve run consistently for 3 years.

    It took me 3 months to realize that I was “taking a break” from running. I’m just struggling with when that break needs to end!

  2. Slumps are tough. Sometimes I feel like I need to ride it out: get the runs in, but then leave running behind. Stop obsessing and try to let it go when I’m not running. Maybe read non-running books and do and talk about non-running other stuff more than usual too. I tend to go “all in” with my running where I get to a point where I’m living and breathing running 24/7 and then I mentally burnout and need to step back and find that balance again. It’s hard! Hope this slump ends soon!