Using An Actual Race As Training? Follow These Rules

If you just can't get enough of racing, here are some tips to follow to include a few races seamlessly into your training schedule.


I am guilty of over-racing. I get FOMO when I see friends and social media buddies signing up for races, or worse, proudly displaying their bling. I find it far easier to get up, and show up with the right attitude for a run when it’s part of a race, compared to a training run where it can take hours to get out of the house.

When training for the New York City Marathon back in 2013 I had a few races already scheduled on my calendar, and by changing my mindset I was able to make the most of the races without derailing my training.

While racing too often isn’t necessarily good for you, there are ways in which you can incorporate them into your training.

  • Check with your coach or a more experienced running friend before signing up. And listen to their advice (easier said than done when there’s a race you really want to do).
  • Don’t get swept up into the racing mentality. If you have a set pace on your training plan, stick to it. Try not to stick with a faster friend, or pace group and accidentally run your race too fast (or too slow). Your prescribed pace is set as such for a reason! Enjoy the race at your own speed and meet your friends at the end. (Take off your timing chip if your official finishing time will really upset you that much.)
  • Run the right distance. I remember running a 22 mile training run as part of a 24 mile race (random, I know). It took all of my mental strength to forget about the time and walk the final two miles to the finish line, but I stuck to my plan. It can be tempting just to continue running—it’s not worth it!
  • Fit in any pre-race miles before you start. Thinking you’re going to continue running after a race is probably not realistic, Then the finish line really will be the finish line (and you don’t have to run home with a medal around your neck or mug in your hydration vest). Try to  ensure that your body doesn’t cool down too much between your runs.
  • Take advantage of the water stations to practice your race-day hydration and fueling. This should include pre-run breakfast, and even your race day outfit if the weather permits. Oh and yay for on-course bathrooms and spectators!
  • Peruse the course profile, route and reviews. Not every 10K is made equal. I recently ‘ran’ the Cancer Research Tough 10 in Box Hill, this 6.2miler included 270 steps, two major (major) hills, and took us 1 hour 46 minutes. This would not have been a good race to attempt a tempo run! 
  • Consider the price. Cost is a big factor, and although a medal is lovely, do you really need to spend $30 for every long run? That’s a very expensive marathon training cycle.