Coach Culpepper: Planning Your Racing Season


Once the initial excitement of the new year wears off, February is a good time to really start focusing on your goals for the months ahead: Race times you’re aiming to hit, places you want to experience, unique events that sound fun or even redemption for unfinished business. A whimsical mindset rarely produces desired results. Now is the time to think through what is important to you by forming a blueprint that will serve as the guide to get you where you want to go.


The first step is actually based on reflection. Take a moment to think about last year. What went well? Where did you fall short of expectations? What could you have done better? Use the answers to these questions to acknowledge what worked for you while homing in on the areas where you need the most improvement to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes. The key to this process isn’t rewriting the entire book—in most cases, it’s about making small changes that have a big impact.

Target goals

Many athletes, even the best ones, struggle with seeing the big picture and only think about what event is next on the calendar. It’s important to identify a few key races throughout the year that you really want to nail, and work backward from those events. It can be tempting to keep the same schedule year after year and, inevitably, duplicate the same training. Your training should be targeted at the end goal—not the intermediate ones or less important races that often become a distraction to the larger objective. This may require skipping an annual race you enjoy and adjusting your mindset to focus on the main goal for the season.


Each racing season should include some element of variety. Ruts are created when the same plan or program is duplicated each year. Variety should not only be a theme in training, but in races as well. This might mean focusing on the 5K for a period of time before resuming your half or full marathon training. This could also include a trail race or something else totally different from your norm. Breaking up the routine is important as long as it doesn’t compromise your goals.

RELATED: Coach Culpepper: Evaluating a Race

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