Have fun and boost your fitness by incorporating races into your workouts.
Besides talent, perhaps the biggest difference between the training approach of elite runners compared to the middle-of-the-packers is in the amount of racing they do as part of their important training segments. Elite runners often spend months toiling in obscurity for the chance to peak and perform their best at one single race. Runners such as Ryan Hall are the epitome of this training style, racing perhaps a half a dozen times over the course of a given year.
Other than the occasional tuneup race, which is used to assess fitness and address training weaknesses, elite marathoners don’t jump into races willy-nilly. Each race they contest is carefully chosen to elicit the best possible training buildup for their goal race. Contrast this approach with what your last marathon or half marathon training segment looked like.
If you’re like a lot of the runners I coach, your schedule was filled with a few charity 5Ks, a couple of fun 10Ks with your friends, and maybe even a half marathon because it was in your neighborhood. Since you’re not a professional runner and your livelihood doesn’t depend on your race performances, you shouldn’t feel too bad about having this type of race schedule — heck, running is supposed to be fun!
However, if you’re like most runners, setting a new PR is a big part of what makes running enjoyable, so it’s important to strike a balance between optimal training and adding in fun races.
Over the next few pages I’ll explain how you can incorporate some of those low-key, fun races into your training schedule while still keeping the integrity of your plan intact.