While races are not every runners cup of tea, most of us will be anticipating those big events that we have planned for later in the year. Unless you’re someone whose A race was the Spine or the Arc, chances are now that the days are lengthening and the snowdrops are pushing through the ground, our thoughts will be turning towards our target races. It is a great idea, as part of your training, to include some practice events too, so that you can really get a feel for race day itself. It is tricky to emulate certain elements when training alone, such as the atmosphere of an event, the number of other people around you and being disciplined with your pacing, so a training race works well. So how should you approach these races without them becoming detrimental?
At this time of year, there are a plethora of winter series across the country, from fell races to cross country and many people use these as a way of working harder in their training. The battle with other runners means that you will often push yourself more than you might in a hard solo session so it is a valuable tool to have. These races do have to be approached with a different mindset though. Imagine going to parkrun every week and trying to set a PB: you would burnout pretty quickly! Aiming to do your training races in this way is also a road to badness, one way or another. The physical aspect of absolutely destroying yourself at least once a month whilst also trying to maintain consistent training for your A race is only one factor, albeit an important one.
The mental toll that this can take can be even worse though. If you approach these training races in the same way you would something that you wanted to do your best on every time, you would often be disappointed. By framing them as another hard session, one where you are using the situation to your own ends rather than looking too closely at your competitors or the final standings, you will be able to truly run your own race. For example, this weekend, I (Kim) will be running a local fell race as my hard session of the week. I will give it my best on the day but I won’t be frustrated if I am slower than last year, or if I don’t place well. For me, this race is well placed to serve as hard session and a way of having some fun with my running club. It is a way of mixing up my usual routine of local flat trails and roads, and then allowing myself a deload the week after. It is a training race!
So, if you are trying to do everything all at once, to be the best you can at several different disciplines of running concurrently, then it’s time to be honest with yourself. Can you really use races as training runs? Can you honestly not be disappointed when you run a race slower than you have in the past because you are in the middle of a hard training cycle? If the answer is no, then maybe it is time to trim some of them away. Ask yourself what you really need to do to get to your bigger goal and keep your attention on that. If you are someone who just enjoys racing though and is willing to accept that your results will reflect your focus, then have at it!
Have a great February and enjoy the fact that Spring is springing!
Kim and Jayson.