Train Your Race

Having wrapped up 11 weeks of marathon training, there are so many different levels to this topic.  As a runner, you need to train for the race you hope for and for the goals you have set for yourself.  This of course starts with setting realistic goals and then creating your plan of action.  A solid training plan is the first step to training for a race.

Beyond this, there are many other factors that are important to keep in mind when training.  Is your race in a warm climate or is it cold?  Will the course be hilly?  Is fuel readily available along the course and at adequate enough increments to suit your personal needs?  What time does you race begin?

Using these questions you can then determine what you will need to consider during your training.  For example, if you live in a cold climate and are running a Disney race in the middle of the winter, you might want to use the treadmill at your gym a bit to give your body a bit of an idea of how it will handle the heat.  Training for races that are in different climates is one of the hardest factors to truly replicate.


I for one, am totally over this!

If you live in the city and are planning a trail race, you will need to find some nearby trails to visit for at least a few of your training runs.  I know that even here in NYC there are some great trails that can be found with a quick train ride north of the city.

Knowing what time a race starts and what your fuel situation will be are key considerations.  If the race starts at 6:00am and you tend to wake up late on the weekends, you should consider adding in a few earlier wake ups and training runs in the weeks leading up to your race.  The last thing you want to find out on race day is that it takes you an extra 30 minutes to prepare on early mornings!

If you know that you need fuel every 2-3 miles and your race won’t be providing these options, you will need to consider carrying fuel with you.  Keep in mind that some races might not offer what you use during training.  If that is the case, skip what they offer and bring your own!

I am running a marathon in a few weeks in the Pocono Mountains.  Having spent all winter training in “flat as a pancake” Chicago, I’ve got some work ahead of me.  Instead of waiting until race day to see how my body responds, I have been using the hills of Central Park for the last few weeks to help me prepare.  I am easing in, to hopefully avoid any over use injuries.  But I do know that hill training will hopefully serve me well on race day.


I love this pic of Rock running the hills in Michigan.  So challenging and yet so rewarding!

What are your techniques for prepping for a race?  What was the hardest race you had to prepare for?

11 thoughts on “Train Your Race

  1. It seems silly but the hardest race for me to prepare for was the 5k I ran just over a year ago. I had run a few 5ks as my first races ever in 2012, but then only ran half- and full- marathons. Because of how I run, once I’d successfully run a full and half, I didn’t worry about them anymore – still don’t. 🙂

    But then going back to running a 5k, thinking that I should be able to get a good PR … THAT scared me 🙂 Once I did it, now I don’t care anymore 🙂

    On the other end of the spectrum, the race that didn’t meet my expectations/training was the PA Grand Canyon marathon … they totally mischaracterized the nature of the race, the overall elevation change and so on (they did “end elevation” – “start elevation” = 200, rather than accounting for the >6000 ft of elevation change over the very hilly course! 😦 That is what happens with an inaugural race, I guess! 🙂

    But the basic idea of understanding the nature of the course – elevation, surface, weather, shade/coverage, city/suburbs/country, and so on – is key.

  2. Hill running is so humbling, but it’s nice to look back and see how high you’ve climbed. One step at a time, I have to repeat to my feet. I heard the Poconos marathon is mostly downhill, which seems like more fun, but tricky for pace control. It’s beautiful there in May!

  3. Those hills look tough, best of luck but exciting for the changeup and new type of course. I have to admit I don’t do too well on hills and that will have to change if I ever want to break into the ultra or trail world. But the hardest race I had to prep for so far was the Maui Oceanfront this January. The challenge was training through a crazy wet, stormy, cold, icy pacific northwest winter where I had to bail on some long runs and then go run in the tropics. Despite an early start it was still 80 degrees with humidity and I severely under-estimated the climbs on the Maui course. It was a brutal wake up call on race day but still glad I done it…learned a lot, for sure 🙂 Best of luck with you ongoing prep.

  4. I agree, you have to train for the race conditions, everything from the course to the temps to the time. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I did myself a solid by training for Phoenix by running my midweek runs on the treadmill (for the most part). I got used to running in a warmer, more humid climate than I dealt with outside. And I got plenty of wind training when I was outside!

  5. This is a great post! One thing I tried to do as often as possible during this round of Boston training was to start running as close to 10am as possible. Not always possible during the work week, but it was possible for weekends and on my long run. I was able to do my longest tempo run during my peak week starting at 10am because I was off of work for spring break. Something I like to do to prep for a race is to start carb loading several days out. This way, your body can increase the glycogen stores for a few days!

  6. i really like the concept of training for “your race,” in all aspects — the actual course itself, but also focusing holistically on YOU and what this race means for you at this time. hope the Poconos race goes well! we should meet up in CP for a run sometime?!

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