How to Plan Your Racing Schedule

By Peter Pfitzinger | DistanceCoach.com

One of the most critical components to distance running success is developing your racing plan. Unfortunately, many runners do not put much thought into planning their races, and base their race schedules primarily on convenience, tradition, or “what everyone else is doing.” If you are passionate about racing, then it is worth taking the time to develop your racing plan for optimal performance. Here are a few guidelines to assist you in developing an optimal racing schedule:

1. Select your goal race(s): To reach your full potential, it is essential to select a specific race to focus on and prepare for. After you identify your goal race, the next step is to set a performance target that is difficult enough to be motivating but which is also achievable. You can then develop the rest of your racing plan to help you achieve your best performance in your goal race.

You may be able to set up your racing schedule for two goal races at different distances. This works well only if the shorter race comes first. For example, if you want to run personal bests (PBs) at 10 K and 10 miles, it would be ideal to have the 10 K race a few weeks before the 10 miler. You will recover relatively quickly from the shorter race and will have the sustained speed to help you set a PB at the longer distance.

2. Include several tune-up races before your goal race: If you train hard and consistently then you will get very fit. You will not, however, be optimally prepared to run your best race because you will not have developed “race toughness.” Tune-up races are races of lesser importance that you use to help prepare for both the physical and mental demands of your goal race. They help reduce your anxiety before your goal race by allowing you to practice a pre-race routine. Tune-up races are also an opportunity to learn to push yourself to your very limit.

3. Avoid the temptation to over-race: The most common mistake that runners make in developing their racing plans is to race too often. Each tune-up race should have a role in your preparation for your goal race. Running too many races in a row takes away the enthusiasm for racing so when your goal race comes along it is hard to put your heart and soul into it. It takes discipline to pick and choose your races, but that discipline will pay off in your goal race.

Racing every two or three weeks is often enough to develop race toughness but infrequent enough so you will not get sick and tired of racing. An example of a reasonable race schedule would be to include tune-up races two, four, six, and nine weeks prior to your goal race.

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