How to Plan your Running Race Season

You’ve just completed a BIG event. The accomplishment has you on a high and has deepened your sense of connection to your running community. Later that same week, still buzzing, you sign up for more events without considering how long it will take you to recover from the test you’ve just put your body and mind through! Sound familiar?

As a Coach, I often meet runners who have stacked their race calendars for the year; this can be a really tall order depending on where they are in their running journey!

An over prescribed race calendar can be risky for the following reasons:

  • Fatigue risk from an ongoing training load with too few rest and recovery cycles
  • Injury risk from continuous and excessive loading
  • Emotional burnout – remember that high I mentioned above? What goes up often comes down!
  • Underperformance or missing goals
  • Not being able to peak at the right time

I’ve seen many runners come onto the scene, particularly in the ultra-event space. Typically, these runners do a bunch of BIG ultras for about two years, then burn out or suffer a sustained injury; this results in them having to retire their running shoes for A LONG time while they try and rehabilitate or recover. Sometimes, they never come right as they fluctuate between overtraining and not training at all.

I’ve been there myself, so trust me when I say I know what it feels like, and there’s a lot of mental anguish that goes with it!

We help guide our runners with race selection, distance goals, and spacing between events; this works well for both coach and runner, especially when we work on multi-year goals. Often, a runner has never stopped to consider their long-term goals. They may have a dream event for the future but no sure plan of how to get there.

Mapping out A, B, and C races, factoring in recovery and off-season strength cycles, base-phase cycles, and training cycles leads to optimum performance at the competitive end and optimum enjoyment, general well-being, and longevity in the sport!

Here are some tips to use when planning your race calendar:

  • Plan no more than 1-2 BIG events per year- 2-3 if you’re intermediate to Advanced. A big event can be something that scares you or something where you know you are just ‘laying it down!’ It could be your first marathon, ultra-marathon, or a repeat distance you’ve done before but on a much more challenging course or format. Or, a race that you just know you’re going to smash yourself! Such as an ‘A Race’ Road Marathon or Ultra A BIG event.
  • Structure some of the other races that you enter as training races working toward your big A Race.
  • If you like to do loads of events, consider structuring them as A, B, and C races; that way, you’re not emptying the tank or risking injury every time you head out to compete! Remember, too, that you can plan different training goals around the various events.
  • Factor in your taper and recovery time when planning your races. Work backward from your event day on the calendar to factor in your taper, and work forwards from your event day to work out your recovery and base phase again. The bigger the event- the bigger the taper and recovery window.
  • And last but not least: Never sign up for another BIG race while in recovery mode from your previous race! It’s a trap! Wait and see how you recover first. Often there are niggles and fatigue underneath that won’t surface for a few weeks post-event

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