Picking a goal race can take some time, but once you have that picked out it’s time to start the real work! Whether it’s a new race distance or a PR in your favorite distance, there are many reasons to pick a goal race. For me, I try and pick a goal race in the spring and then in the fall, but that all depends on what I have going on. For this spring, I don’t actually have a goal race for time or distance planned right now. Instead, my goal race is to help get Lauren across the finish line for her first marathon! However, if you are planning on a bigger goal, I wanted to share a few tips on how I take on the next steps!
1 – Pick a Training Plan
As I am picking the goal race, I begin to work on a training plan. If the plan won’t fit into life at the time, then to me, it’s not a good race to pick as a goal race. I have trained for races before without a plan and didn’t really get anywhere. Then, I started using a plan and what a world of difference it made. I gravitated toward Hal Hidgon’s plans, but there are a lot of choices out there. Sometimes your local running group will provide a plan if you signed up for their goal race as well. For example, I know all of the local Pittsburgh running groups have their own plans to prepare for the Pittsburgh Marathon.
I learned that having a plan laid out is truly best for me. It helps me keep my goal in sight and helps me lay out life sometimes. Knowing what mileage I have and when, I can better prepare my week. One thing I also learned though is that life does get in the way sometimes. A run might be missed because you’re traveling, sick or stuck at work and that is okay. Don’t fret and unless you can safely make up the miles, one missed run of 3 miles will not break your training plan.
2 – Gear Check
Even if this is your 20th half marathon, anytime you put that goal race on the calendar, I believe it’s a good time to do a gear check. Perhaps you are just coming off a long training cycle and put in over 400 miles on the one pair of shoes. Even though shoes can go well over 500 miles, they will start to break down and potentially can cause injury. If you plan on doing another 400 miles+, this is a great time to order a new pair of shoes, a new sports bra or even fill up on fuel.
By picking up some new gear you also have time to play around with what you might what to wear come race day. Never pick up something the week of and just go race in it. The saying, “Nothing New on Race Day”, should always hold true. Even with a 12 week training plan, it gives you time to figure out if you are more a shorts or a capri person. Before my first marathon, I really never wore shorts. Then, something just clicked and I found a great pair of shorts and now I have run two marathons in shorts! I gave myself plenty of time to get comfortable with that and figuring out where exactly I needed to add some extra Body Glide, but with time, it wasn’t a big deal.
3 – Link Up with Others
A year ago, I probably would have omitted this tip, but in this past year, I have found the importance of linking up with others on runs or just to bounce running ideas off of. I belong to the Elite Runners & Walkers group and even the one day a week I run with them, I have found to make a huge difference in my training. Maybe you find someone to run with one night every other week or someone to run with 3 nights a week. Either way, by having a pal with you, it holds you more accountable. You’re going to be less likely to bail on a run when someone else in involved.
Don’t be afraid to use social media for support on this as well. Ask for help/advice/anything, especially if this is a new race distance you will be tackling! There are definitely no stupid questions! Going after a new distance like the half or the full, you are bound to have questions and that’s okay. I remember asking random twitter people many different and sometimes strange questions. One great place to link up with others, ask questions and get general advice is the #RunChat done every Sunday on twitter. I’ve connected with some amazing people through that and have gotten great advice. No matter how you go about it, finding friends who might be going through the same journey makes things a little better in the long run.
4 – Have All The Fun!
When I was coaching high school rowing, no matter how hard the work out was or who we lined up in at a race, my saying was that when you were done and you couldn’t say you had fun, then you were doing it wrong. You might have crappy runs and you life might be crazy, but even when you are training for a BQ or to break 6 hours on a marathon, you need to just have fun. Having fun will change everything about your training. Be serious when you need, laugh when you need, but when you sit down and reflect back, make sure you can tell the story of that BQ and all the fun you had. Nothing isn’t worth it if you didn’t have fun!
I know everyone takes on a goal race differently, but I wanted to share a few quick tips on what has helped me in the past. I am so excited to have a spring race season where it’s all about fun, crossing off some new states and seeing friends hit some big goals. And if you are maybe thinking about signing up for the Pittsburgh Half or Full marathon, today is your lucky day as you can save $10 with my blogger code, PRIOR2016! It’s good for any of their races (even the 5k on Saturday).