Running races are terrific goals or milestones in your fitness plan. Running a community road or trail race will boost your confidence and give you some added motivation to stay fit. Also, there’s something about parting with that $20 entry fee that solidifies my commitment towards a goal.
Another great benefit of running races is joining other people like you, with similar goals. Hanging out after a race with my new T-shirt and shiny finisher’s medal telling ‘sea stories’ about the race is fun. It builds friendships; It creates some great memories; and it makes your fitness habits part of your life. What races are near you? Click on this web-page and use the USA map to find a race that fits your plan: Running Races in the USA If you’re just starting out, check out the 10-week schedule that will have you running 5k-distance in just 10 weeks. If you’ve surpassed this level, you’ll need to craft a training plan that meets your goals and abilities. It should allow time for improvement - I’d recommend at least 10 weeks for a 5k training plan and at least 26 weeks for a marathon training plan.
Look at your race distance and goal and determine what pace you’ll need to run to meet that goal (click here for a pace calculator). If you’ve already done a 5k and are looking for the next race, use this race prediction calculator to estimate a potential goal. As with any estimation tool, use your best judgment as to whether or not the goal is over or under ambitious.
Your training plan should gradually build up your endurance and speed as you get closer to race day. I would not increase weekly mileage more than 15-20%, and would add rest days before and after any interval work-outs. I would also allow for sufficient rest leading up to the race. It is important to schedule rest through-out your plan – without it your body won’t be able to heal and make the improvements from all of your hard work.
Need for speed? Many people don’t like the track, but I think it’s a great gauge and measurement tool. For example, if you have a time goal to break 25 minutes for a 5k race, this equates to approximately an 8-minute mile pace. This is equivalent to doing a loop around a 440-yard track in 2 minutes. For some tips and sample training plans, check out the running training program page.
Use the track to gauge your goal and see if it’s too ambitious or too easy, and then adjust as necessary. If you are exhausted after doing one 2-minute lap, breaking 25 minutes may be a longer-term goal. Interval training should push you, but not exhaust you. If you are gasping for air, you are pushing too hard and putting yourself at an unnecessary risk for injuries. If running on a track is new to you, click here for some quick tips.
Running races is a great way to keep your fitness and running program going. It's also can be a fun social event to meet and learn from other runners of varying abilities. Happy racing!