Confession: My name is Alaina and I’m a race-aholic.
Yeah, I just can’t help it. Some folks love the training and some folks love the racing. I like both, but I love the racing big. I love it because I get to see some amazing places and feel the energy of every place. The crowds motivate me to push forward, but the feeling I get when I run with so many strangers is what does it for me. That’s my glue.
Part of the reason why I started doing so many races is because they make great training runs. I often get bored running the same places and seeing the same things, so races help to break up my weekly routine. Races keep things exciting and keep you on your toes.
If you are training for a goal race you should really think about adding some races into your training plan before the big day. There are so many reasons why races rock as training runs, but here are just a few.
Keep Your Head In The Game. Races keep you focused. You will be less likely to slack off if you have a race on the horizon. Many half and full marathon training plans are for 12-20 weeks before your goal race, so by throwing a couple races into the mix you can work up to your big goal by meeting smaller goals first.
Work Through Jitters. Some people thrive in the race environmental while others get serious nerves and stress out which often affects performance. The only way to get better at racing is to practice it. The more you race the more you will be able to push those butterflies down and center on your goal. By running a couple races before your major race you allow yourself to work through the jitters.
Keep Everything Fun. My favorite part of using races as training runs is that there is no pressure. You can just treat the race as your long run or speed work for the week and go get brunch after. There isn’t that pressure to perform a certain way or hit a particular time because the training race isn’t your goal race. The Mr. and I ran the Humana 5k last year and had the best time! It was free race and we registered last minute, but I also ran one of my best sprint to the finish times in a 5k.
Practice Race Day Routine. No matter what sort of race it is you want it to mimic how you prepare for a long run, but sometimes it’s not always possible. Race days usually mean standing around in a corral waiting for the start, taking a taxi or walking to the start, using a portajohn in the dark, warming up around other people and other unforeseen things. I don’t know about you but my long runs never start with me standing around for over an hour or having to use a portajohn at 5am. By using another race as a practice run you get to see what works for you and try out your race day strategy. For me this means knowing I will need to eat something else right before the start because by the time I get to my corral I will have eaten breakfast over 1.5 hours ago. I will likely be a little hungry before the start or will need something else to have a strong start especially if it’s a marathon when I don’t want to be behind in nutrition early on.
Opportunity to Be Awesome. Running a race as a training run gives you the opportunity to be awesome. A lot of times these races can be incredible experiences and sometimes even throw you a shiny new PR. Many of us perform better when the pressure is off and training races give you that chance. Also, chances are high you will be more relaxed at a local race than a destination race and you’ll be more familiar with the course. Anything can happen on race day, so even if your goal race goes wrong and is a total flop then you have at least had the opportunity at another stellar race along the way.
When I ran my first marathon last May, the gentleman standing next to me in the corral asked me if I had a backup race and I soon realized what he meant. The Chicago Marathon was my goal race for 2015 and was the whole reason why I was running the Colfax Marathon months before. If Colfax was a flop then I hadn’t wasted 5 months of my life just to have a bad experience. Colfax was an ugly but beautiful race experience, but I’m still glad it was more of a training run for me because Chicago was my big picture race.
If you are training for a half marathon look to add a 5k or 10k to your training plan and if you’re marathon training look to add several races to your calendar. Not only will you get some incredible race day practice, but you will set yourself up for success to hit your big goals.
Do you use races as training runs?
Have you had a goal race that flopped?