Choose your battles wisely.
It’s timeless advice that applies to nearly every aspect of life. Whether it’s within the context of a romantic relationship, a dysfunctional work environment, or a childrearing strategy, the idea of emphasizing certain objectives and letting lesser concerns slide tends to optimize your long-term satisfaction in any situation.
This philosophy applies to running as well, but unfortunately, many runners tend to overlook it.
Most runners love racing. There are lots of great reasons to do it. But many novice runners regard a race calendar like a child going into a candy store – they want to try a little bit of everything, and they want to have it now. And if their wallet’s fat enough, they can sample every last treat in the store.
In many areas of the country, if you’re willing to travel a bit, it’s possible to enter a race almost every weekend of the year. And as great as that initially sounds, it’s not exactly a good thing.
Over-racing typically has three byproducts:
- Staleness, or plateauing of race times.
Do any of these sound like fun? Yet as predictably as the greedy kid will end up puking in the car on the way home, many runners will bring these unfortunate situations on themselves due to lack of foresight in planning their races.
If you are looking to set PR times at various distances, try adopting a “less is more” approach. Pick a few key races each year, and tailor your training towards those particular goals.
Each type of race requires a different approach to your training. You shouldn’t train for a fast 10K the same way you do for a marathon PR. If you’re accustomed to running on roads, an 8K trail race might leave you sore for days.
Most runners like to taste a variety of different races, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you can’t simply jump from one training style right into the next without encountering some difficulty. If you are mixing up your races, give your body a rest period to recover from one maximal effort before taking on another.
Patience Is a Virtue
There are so many race distances and experiences out there, that it’s impossible to do them all in a short period of time without suffering one of the over-racing consequences above.
If you want many years of enjoyment and/or success from your running, take a long-term approach to selecting your races. There’s usually no reason to rush things: the vast majority of races are very reliable from year to year, so if a certain event doesn’t fit into your schedule one year, skip it and make it a priority for the following year.
Although it requires a bit of restraint, a selective approach will ultimately reap great rewards. You’ll be able to properly train and taper for each race, which will produce fast results. Your body will be able to recover properly from each race, so your risk of injury decreases. The variation in events from year to year will sustain your interest level in the sport for a long time.
And you won’t feel like the sick kid in the back of the car who has bitten off more than he can chew.