The One Sentence You Should Never Say About Your Race

Don't say it! Flickr Commons image from Foxymama8600
Don’t say it! Flickr Commons image from Foxymama8600

I don’t know many people who don’t enjoy recapping their race experience. Whether it’s a local 5k or a major marathon, don’t we all love to give the play-by-play on the group cool-down, in our training logs or in a formal race report? Even when things don’t go as well as we hoped we like to do a postmortem to figure out what we did wrong and when things go well, it’s glorious to recap that experience!

But when we’re talking about our race report, there is one sentence we should never utter. It’s a sentence I have heard many times from others and a sentence I, myself am guilty of saying. In fact, I was perusing my training log from a few years ago and saw I wrote this very sentence when describing a race. This sentence is not only counterproductive, it’s often just plain disingenuous. And yes, I’m making you read on to find out what that sentence is!


I could have run faster.

That’s it.

When I read this in my training log, my first thought was: well, then why didn’t you?

What I really believe I and others are saying when we say this is: I am so much better than this time indicates.

One problem with saying I could have run faster is that race results don’t lie. When you say you could have run faster, either you ran as hard as you could and you’re just wishing your time was faster or you intentionally sand-bagged and couldn’t be bothered to run faster, yet you’re claiming a faster result. More often than not, the reason people like three-years-ago-me say this is because they wish they ran faster.

If you think you could have run faster, then get out there next time and EARN that result! Flickr Commons Image from mainerunningphotos
If you think you could have run faster, then get out there next time and EARN that result! Flickr Commons Image from mainerunningphotos

Another problem with saying I could have run faster is that it’s a disincentive to make improvements in your training or race strategy to actually run faster next time. By simply saying I could have run faster, we claim the better result without having to do anything to actually get it. It ends the conversation. However, there are more productive statements that we can make that are similar to I could have run faster that are more honest and helpful to improving next time.

With a few tweaks to my race strategy, I believe I can run even faster next time. Fix: Make those tweaks on your next go-round!

– I held back more than I hoped early on and had a lot left in the tank at the end. Fix: Go out harder next time.

I really thought I was capable of running a faster time, but I just couldn’t do it today. Fix: Dust yourself off and race again, chalking this one up to an off day. 

My head wasn’t in it and I just couldn’t focus enough to push myself as hard as I needed to to race my best. Fix: Work on your mental game for next time.

If you want to be the best runner you can be, next time you give a race recap and feel yourself wanting to say I could have run faster, dig deeper. If you made mistakes note them so you can not make them again. If you had an off day, note that to see if there was anything you could do differently to feel better next time. If you realize you think you’re fitter than the result indicates, think hard why the result isn’t what you had hoped, but don’t claim that faster result without actually earning it. It won’t do you any good.

Have you ever said you could have run faster after a race? Are there other race recap sentence no-nos you can think of?


Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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  1. Over the past few years I’ve learned how to run so I do not feel that way at the finish.
    During a 5K I can now go 100% almost the entire way. I still have moments of doubt which probably add a few seconds to my finish time.
    I’ve found that if I feel like i’m going to be sick or about to die, I’m giving it my all.
    At the end of a marathon a rarely feel I could have run faster. But I often feel I could have trained harder. It’s a completely different type of race.
    A big no-no is feeling bad about your time. There is always someone standing next to you who finished the 5K 10-20 minutes slower than you did.
    I don’t want anyone to admire me because I finished 20 min ahead of them, and I certainly do not want to make someone feel bad because of the same.
    We each run our own race to the best of our abilities and with the intensity that we are willing to put into it.

    1. There’s a difference between knowing there are things in training or during the race that will help you run a faster time and just saying you could have run faster. You’re doing constructive post race analysis rather than then wishful thinking and emptiness of saying you could have run faster. And of course, being constructive is the way to be!

  2. I am often (maybe even always. . .) guilty of this one. I don’t agree that I am trying in some way to claim a faster time (I don’t say it out loud or anything), I just know that my performance issues are often mental, not physical. I’m not very good at pushing myself beyond the point of discomfort, so often when I finish a race and recover in about 11 seconds, I think, “wow, I definitely could have run that faster.” I just need to add on to the end of that, “SO for the future I will work on breaking through this barrier in workouts and next time I will remember this moment and push through!”

    1. I get you! I think I probably was saying it partially in that way too, but it was also partly trying to tell myself that I’m way more awesome than my disappointing time said (which brings to light other problems – being too hard on ourselves, judging our self worth based on running performance, etc!) But you get the idea – make it constructive and use it to create a plan of action for improvement!