Twice before, I’ve taken on the challenge of completing a back to back half marathon race weekend. My first go at this was in October 2015 when I completed the Hartford Half Marathon in CT and then the Narraganset Rhode Race in RI. I remember being so nervous as I headed to CT for the first race as I had no idea if I could actually pull the double off. I really had now idea what to expect in terms of how I would do and how my body would react.
So why would I even do a back to back weekend? That’s pretty easy. I’m crazy? In all honestly though, the answer is actually quite simple. Doing a back to back half marathon weekend helps check off close states a lot faster as well as increase your half count a lot faster. I actually enjoyed it so much, that I completed my second double weekend in ME and VT in July 2016. By completing a double weekend you can save a lot on things like air fare and your time. Why pay for two flights to the Northeast if I can pay for one and bang out 2 different states? Over these 2 weekends alone, I was able to cross off 4 new states. Already this month, I tackled 2 more back to back weekends to cross off Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska.
One of the biggest tools that I use when picking races is the Running in the USA Double Stater Tool. If you have a state in mind and a month, you can plug that in and pick how far you’d be willing to drive. I personally think the distance between Hartford and Narraganset was perfect. It was maybe an hours drive. The distance between Portland and Waitsfield though was much longer and not as ideal. Four hours in the car between races is just a bit too long for me. I was nervous for my MN/NE double as there is 5 hours between then and I did all of the travel by myself. That was certainly further than I wanted to do for a double, but the opportunity came up, so I had to take advantage of it and some pretty cheap flights.
When you decide which races to do, it’s time to hit the logistics. If your races are close enough, I would suggest finding one airport to fly in/out of. This reduces potential cost for a one way car rental and the stress of figuring out which airports are best. I would also suggest trying to find an airport closer to the second race as you’ll be tired and just want to get to the airport.
The CT/RI was easy for that. We flew in/out of Providence. Due to the crazy cost of the flights for the ME/VT double, this was not as easy to decide. Originally the plan was to fly in/out of Boston. However, flights were over $500-600 and being cheap, I wasn’t having any of this. Pretty last minute, it was decided to fly directly into Portland, ME and then actually fly home out of Albany, NY. I have not idea how I even figured out Albany, but it somehow worked. Either way, to Boston and to Albany, it was going to be a 3 hour drive after Sunday’s race. Again, not ideal, but we do what we need to do and while it sounds like it could be more costly, it actually wasn’t as I was able to use some points. For my upcoming doubles, I did all one way flights as I am going in and out of 4 different airports for those race weekends.
Once you confirm the races, I always suggest trying to find some running buddies to tag along. The 50 States Clubs, Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs are great places to find travel buddies. There is also now a Running Traveling Buddies Facebook Group. I found a hotel mate for my NE to help share the cost and many other running friends have found some great people to help share the cost with for their races. I actually did the RI/CT double with some 50 State ladies I had never met and they were wonderful! This ME/VT double was done with my friend Kathleen. We did try and find a few others to split car/hotels with to bring the cost down, but there were no takers. Sometimes traveling with a group isn’t great, but if you can do it, do it. Bringing the cost down on car rentals and hotels only means that there is more money leftover for other races!
Once you sign up for both races, training should start. If you have a great base, you honestly should not have an issue completing a back to back weekend. When I went in for my first one, I was training for my second marathon and certainly had the miles on my legs. However, if you’re concerned about training, the best advice I can give is get out there on the weekends and do back to back long runs. It doesn’t have to be every weekend, but the more you run on tired legs, the better you might feel come race weekend.
For me, I tried to do at least every other weekend. I didn’t even necessarily try and mimic the same mileage. If I had run 8 miles on Saturday, maybe I only did 3-5 on Sunday. For me, it was more about getting out there to feel those tired legs and being able to mentally be able to finish any mileage I set out for on those tired legs.
To complete a back to back weekend, a lot of the struggle is mental. You might not want to wake up again at 5:30am and pull yourself out of bed to get to another start line. I am sure there are training plans out there for this type of challenge, but I did not follow anything specifically for a back to back distance race. The normal wall might certainly come a lot faster during a challenge like this though. I’ve learned that come the second race at mile 8, it’s adrenaline and pride that push you through to the finish line. Enjoy the miles and the challenge. At the end of the day, no matter how hard a back to back challenge is, just remember to have fun!