This is the second post in a four-part series on Running: From Start to Finish. If you missed Part I last week on Base Training, go have a look, and here’s a list of resources to help you out along the way.
Now that you’ve laid your base fitness level, it’s time to start race training. Race training is very specific in terms of the race you are training for. Obviously, different lengths of races require different training times, and this is also hugely decided by your base fitness level. If you take the time to develop a strong base fitness level like we talked about last week, this will decrease the time you have to spend race training, as you won’t have to spend extra time getting fit first. For me, the rough guide that I use for coaching clients, assuming they have no race experience, and depending on their base fitness level is as follows:
5 km race: 3-4 weeks
10 km race: 6-8 weeks
Half marathon: 12-14 weeks
Marathon: 16-20 weeks
When you create your plan (depending on what your goals are), you should generally aim for one long run per week, one day of rest and recovery, 1-2 days of speed training (such as hills, tempo, fartlek etc.), and then the remainder of the days just running, and logging distance. Race training is partly about improving and working on your speed so you can reach your time goals, and partly about simply exposing your body to lots of time spent running so it gets used to it, and you get used to it as well. If you are running the race for a particular goal time or to set a new PR, you can adjust your plan accordingly to incorporate more speed work. If you are new to racing, just aim to finish for your first race and this will give you a base to work from for your future races. Ready? Grab a piece of paper and let’s make your training plan:
- Decide what race you are going to run when, and then count backwards from the race date to decide when you need to start training. Remember that the last week before the race is taper week – where you run minimally and taper down your training. Tapering is important to let your body recover from any residual training stress and be at its optimal for race day.
- Once you know what date you need to start training, figure out what days you will do which runs. It’s important to develop a routine and keep things pretty similar from week to week so that your body performs at its best. Determining what days are better for what run will depend on your own schedule and will vary for everyone.
- It’s time to start writing out your plan. The writing stage is really important, as it solidifies it on paper and makes you accountable for your training. When I make my plans, I write the weeks along the left hand side and the type of run along the top and then just fill in the boxes for each day.
- Once you have written your plan, make a few copies and post it where you can see it and can refer to it regularly. Now you are ready to begin!
Here’s a few things to remember:
- Training for a race takes time. Often a lot of it. Know this before you commit to the race and know that you have the time to give. And then give it!
- Don’t skip your long runs. Your training will be interrupted and shifted around as you go through (life happens), but go to all measures necessary to not skip your long runs. You’ll be thankful on race day.
- Racing is very much a mental game, and you need to work on training your mental fitness as much as your physical fitness. Some of this will happen naturally through the volume of running you will be doing, but be aware of it and train your mental state elsewhere if necessary. Better yet, read this book!
- Be flexible. Sometimes your training plan will change a bit, and you’ll add something in or take something away, or shift around your days. Life happens, and this is okay. It’s important though to make sure you are still getting adequate training and adequate rest and that any shifting isn’t at the expense of proper training.
- Be selfish. I don’t mean this in a mean way, but own your run time, and don’t let anyone take it from you. You know how badly you want this and other people won’t get it quite the same as you do. In fact, some people will think you’re downright crazy! But don’t let that deter you or distract you, but rather push you to achieve what you know you can do.
- Practice, practice, practice. Think of all your training as practice for the big day. Every thing you will have to do on race day, you should have done already, from what you’ll eat to what time you’ll get up to trying out your race pace. We’ll talk more about this next week in Part III: Race Day!
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Have any questions, feedback, or just need help making your training plan? Send an email to [email@example.com] and I’d be happy to help!
Have a great weekend and happy running!