Keeping Health, Fun and Speediness in a Balanced Race Schedule

Though RunningLane puts on events and does race timing, our primary job is to be the nerdiest most knowledgeable group of running coach geeks you know. We live for seeing our athletes find success at goal races, watching them improve and making sure they stay healthy along the way. This is why we want to highlight the importance of making a balanced race schedule. For purposes of performance, health and fun, we want to make sure our athletes have great preparation for what they want to accomplish over the course of a season. 

It is that time of year, when everyone is trying to set their fall racing schedules and let us tell you this can be a tricky thing. When you live in a dense running community like Huntsville, AL, this can be both a blessing and a burden. With multiple races going on every week, you have to pick and choose what suits your training needs. Now if your primary objective is to enjoy all the running community has to offer without worrying about a true training cycle with goal races along the way, then race away. However, if you are aiming towards a certain mark at a particular event or events, it is important to take frequency into consideration.

As coaches we love hearing that people love to train and love to race. It’s our job to guide you in a direction so that you can optimize your performance within a training block. Usually 15 races within a 3 month period is not the way to do this. We recommend that you prioritize what races you want to perform your best at. If there are a few things that you really want to do for perhaps the race environment, cool finisher medal or time with friends, we recommend that you train through it our use it as a training run. Frequency of quality races depends on the distance of your events as well. For instance you maybe can have two important 5ks within a month, you should not expect the same level of performance with two marathons within the same given time and it probably isn’t a great idea altogether. It’s all about knowing what you value and what you want to truly accomplish in your season for both performance and health purposes. 

If we are racing too often at an intense level, we risk becoming “burnt out” as a result of a lot of intensity week after week with little recovery or training volume in between. Another danger of racing too much in the midst of training for a specific race is actually losing training time. If you are constantly trying to be prepared and rested for an event, you lose the opportunity to truly invest in your training for your primary goal races. In order to stay healthy if you are racing intensely, you must prepare your body for the event and recover well from it. If you are doing that week after week, with no weekends off in between, It becomes challenging to actually get quality training and quality recovery. Injury risk skyrockets when we apply too much intensity on our bodies without adequate recovery. So if you are mainly training for a marathon or even a 50k, those little races and times away from the weekend long run or taking an extra day of recovery after can add up and work against the total product of your training. That being said, we aren’t telling you not to race, we are simply saying choose your races wisely and have a plan. 

Here is an example of a racing plan that shows some balance but decent frequency of racing. 

Week 1: Base Training 

Week 2: Base Training 

Week 3:  Base Training 

Week 4: Base Training 

Week 5: 5k 

Week 6

Week 7: 15k 

Week 8: 5k with friends 

Week 9

Week 10: 10k 

Week 11

Week 12: Half Marathon 

Week 13

Week 14

Week 15 

Week 16: Goal Marathon 

Here are a couple ways to make sure you are optimizing your racing schedule. 

  1. Prioritize. Find what races mean the most to you and work backwards from there. 

  2. Be willing to be flexible. Not every race has to be a race. If you are set on doing an event for fun. Let it be that, and don’t get caught up in the result if you are training through. 

  3. Have a big picture mindset. At the end of the year what do you want to remember about your running? Is it accomplishing your goal at your key race of the season, or is it participating in a number of events or socializing with friends. Both are reasonable answers, but it is hard to combine the two perfectly. Be honest with yourself with what your true goals are for the year. 

We love the competitive side of our sport and we love the social side of our sport, and they can be mixed together if you are willing to compromise a bit of the “weekend warrior” mentality. So before you sign up for your fall races make sure to prioritize, be willing to cut what doesn’t really matter and make sure you give yourself time to rest, recover and train in between events. 


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Will Christian

I was a 2:27 marathoner that seemed to have hit the ceiling. It seemed that I couldn't break that time. I ran a 2:20 marathon this past fall and a big reason for that success was due to coaching and guidance. Coaching is like having a second set of eyes on a problem.

As an active duty service member we are taught "Attention to Detail." I was focusing on my stronger attributes while neglecting my weaker ones. My personal coach pointed a few things out and changed a few of my workouts and like magic; I smashed my PR in the marathon.