How do you spot a runner? Simple – take a look at their calendar. Chances are, alongside the birthdays and anniversaries, you will see things like ‘long run’, ‘tempo run’, and ‘fartlek day’ marked on it.
Planning ahead for the season is an exercise that every serious recreational runner must undertake, especially those targeting multiple races in a year. Having a plan for your running year makes sure that you can effectively integrate your racing calendar with your year’s overall running goals. Planning out your running calendar also help you avoid running too much and burning out.
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when making your running calendar for 2015.
1) Mark the big days
Every serious runner has one or two ‘A-races’ in a year – the most important ones in the year. This could be a prestige race like the SCMM or a race where you will be targeting a new distance. Picking out your A-races early on will help you plan the rest of your training season around them and improve your chances of hitting your goals.
For those of you who are unsure about your A-races, base that decision on your running goal. If your goal is to shave minutes off your personal best or to graduate to a new distance, target a race that you are familiar with. If your goal is to shake-up your running season, target a more challenging race like a forest trail run. If your goal is to build endurance, target a hill run or a triathlon.
2) Budget wisely
Running is an inexpensive sport – up to a certain point. The more serious your running gets, the more varied your running calendar becomes, and soon, you are looking at running at events in different cities. Race fees, flights, accommodation can all add up and you want to make sure that your calendar is balanced. Again, prioritize your A-races so you can register early and make your arrangements in advance.
3) Have a B-team ready
Even if you have graduated to doing half, full and even ultra-marathons, choose some smaller races in the year like 5Ks, 7Ks and 10Ks. You might be doing these distances as part of your training anyway, but a race environment always makes a difference. You can also treat these smaller races like a tempo run or a fartlek run. Targeting a smaller race a few weeks before an A-race will help you with the mental preparedness for the big race, while still leaving lots of time to taper.
4) Taper and recover adequately
Speaking of tapering, space out your races and training in a way that leaves enough room for tapering between events. The importance of proper tapering cannot be overstated. A properly tapered system is like a fully wound watch – primed and ready to go on race day. Having events adequately spaced out also leaves room for your system to recover. Study your calendar for weeks where you have too much lined up. If your goal is to rack up mileage, ensure that you are not too much too fast – this might expose you to injury.
And finally, plan but don’t plan too much! You can be a serious runner without sacrificing the pleasure of running. Take part in some runs because your best friends are running in them too. Plan an event where you have to run in costume! Include an event where you will be running for a good cause – trust us, it will make you feel good.
After all, that’s what it comes down to – to run your best, but to never outrun the joy of running.