If you’re starting out, or even a seasoned runner, you need to plan your races to make sure you are in peak condition on race day and also avoid unwanted injuries. Whether you are training for a 5k, a marathon or even an ultra marathon, the principles must be the same and it’s ok, even the most experienced runners make mistakes from time to time so here are my tips for preparing for your target race:
1. Plan your lead up time to train – you need to consider how long you will need to train effectively for your race, taking into account current commitments including work, home life and anything else you already have in place. The longer the distance, the more commitments you have, the longer the lead up time you will need. If you’re going to do your first 5km and haven’t run before then 5-6 weeks is plenty time, perhaps 8-10 weeks for 10km, 10-14 weeks for a Half Marathon, 16 weeks minimum for a marathon and longer for an Ultra. If you’re reading this and thinking about entering a race then I would recommend looking at March/April for a 5km, April/May for a 10km, end of May/June for a Half and maybe September for a Marathon and September/October for an Ultra. It all depends on where you’re starting from.
2. Make time to train – While this is more important when training for anything from a Half Marathon upwards, it’s also advisable for the shorter distances too. To get the best results, you will need to set aside 3-4 days a week for training runs. You need to get your body used to running so 3 days a week would be ideal to begin with and set aside a Saturday or Sunday morning for your long run. Parkrun on a Saturday is a great opportunity to get a fixed run in and also to measure your progress alongside others who are doing the same as you.
3. Get a training plan – I think this is pretty crucial. Working to a plan will get you in perfect shape for your race, peaking at the right time. The biggest cause of running injuries is overuse, usually from building up the mileage/frequency too much too soon. We all have a rough idea of what we should be doing but it’s useful to find a plan that will work for you and build you up gradually. There are many places online where you can find pre-designed plans or also consider finding a running coach who can design one for you that will be designed to fit around your schedule. Like any other training plan, it’s useful to break down your training schedule with shorter, maybe monthly targets, to help keep you focused and motivated.
4. Cross Train – this is a must in my opinion. When you start to train for a race, you need to train your body to be able to run and for the demands you’re about to place upon the body. Most runners just run and that can potentially lead to problems as you increase the mileage. It’s important to add in some conditioning work so perhaps doing some exercises like lunges that will help with the forward movement of running and classes like Yoga to help with mobility and flexibility.
Hopefully now you have a better idea of how to plan your training and also give you an idea of how long you will need to prepare for your race.