Why wasn’t my race as fast as I expected?

Factors that affect your running performance

Every now and then, our fun run time or our running time trial is disappointingly not what we expected.  There are many factors that affect your running performance on any given day.

If your time doesn’t hit the goal you set for yourself, here are the factors to consider:

  • Nutrition:  Did you prepare for the event with a snack or meal 90 mins-120 mins prior?  Have you skipped meals today?  Have you been eating good quality foods and getting enough kilojoules?  Dieting, very low carbs, low protein, can all affect your energy and performance.  
  • Hydration: Do you drink enough water?  Gulping a litre prior to a race or time trial is useless and uncomfortable.  Aim to stay hydrated all week by keeping water with you.
  • Sleep:  Poor quality, short or interrupted sleep will affect your energy and performance.  Get into a good routine with your sleeping habits!
  • Iron levels:  It’s quite common for women to be low in iron.  If you’ve been feeling fatigued most days, don’t write it off as ‘being busy’, see your GP for a blood test to check your iron levels.  Your exercise performance will be severely affected if your iron is low.
  • Commitment to training:  Did you do the training that needed to be done?  Did you attend classes and complete your homework?  Performance improvements don’t just magically happen because time has passed and you’ve set a goal.  You need to commit to the work required to reach the goal.
  • Pacing:  With experience comes the ability to pace yourself under race conditions as well as during training runs.  Finding your ideal pace to start steady and finish hard, as well as dealing with steep hills can be tricky.  Practice and experiment.  Definitely don’t be swept up in someone else’s pace that’s vastly different to your own.  At every fun run there’s a bunch of people who run hard for the first kilometre and end up walking soon after.  Don’t ride their wave!
  • Effort level on the day:  Did you give it your all on the day?  If you finished and felt like you had quite a bit left in the tank, you’ll need to up your efforts.  Some fire in the belly where you’re competitive against your own personal bests is helpful.
  • Other runners:  Invariably if you do a time trial on your own, you won’t perform as well when there is a group of runners with you.  Fun Runs are an inspiring way for us to achieve our best times.  The crowd, the other runners and the atmosphere help to change our mental state and spurs us on.  I’ve found that time trials in a large group result in even better performances than time trials in small groups.
  • Stress levels or emotion:  If you’re really stressed or upset about something it’s unlikely you’ll run your best.  Running is a fabulous way to manage stress and emotions, so don’t skip the run, just keep in mind this is not the best time to assess your performance levels.
  • Music:  Having inspiring tunes on during your workout has been shown to significantly decrease the level of perceived effort.  What does this mean?  It means that when listening to music you feel like you’re not working as hard as when there’s no music, even when you’re working at the same level!  Use this to help you get that edge on your performance.
  • Experience:  It’s a fact of life that new runners will improve in leaps and bounds.  We see dramatic time trial improvements in our beginners, however the more seasoned runner you are the smaller the improvements you’ll achieve.  Adjust your expectations so they’re realistic – have a chat with your run trainer.


Our running trainer, Jono suggests:

What to think about during a race/time trial
breathing, foot strikes, foot speed, perceived effort, relaxing shoulders, maintaining good technique

What NOT to think about during a race/time trial
work, chores, to do lists, daily stresses


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