Do You Race to Train or Train to Race?

This weekend, I am running the North Jersey Half Marathon (come join us, $15 discount code).  I am also tacking on an extra 5 miles to the race for a total of 18 miles.  Sure, my goal race this season is Philadelphia Marathon but that has not stopped me from participating in as many races as I can this season.  In all, I have done about 4 races, which I have incorporated my weekly long runs into.   That may be a small number for some, but it is significant to me.  Maybe I am making up for lost time, 20 weeks of not running due to pregnancy and postpartum can really make a girl just want to get out there and GO! Or maybe not, it seems like many runners all around me are doing the same thing.

So I did not run much, but I got a Turkey Trot in on my due date!

So I did not run much, but I got a Turkey Trot in on my due date!

I mean why not make your training runs races.  They are so much fun and you get a shiny medal at the end of the event.    You get to test out race day strategy, feel an overall sense of motivation and adrenaline from the race atmosphere, take advantage of the fueling stations and bathrooms, and just have plain old fun!  Sometimes running alone, with a group, or a friend is just what you need but other times a race is where it is at.  The question is:

Do you race to train or train to race?

In other words, when you incorporate your training run into a race how do you treat it.  Do you race full-out?  Or do you keep with your training plan and maintain training pace throughout the race.  Generally the concern of racing to train is burn out and injury.  Remember this is not your goal race, rather it is a race you have entered for fun.  FUN! Imagine that.

So which should you do?  It depends, don’t you just love those answers.  If you are setting a few races on your calendar before the goal race and they are properly distributed and you are feeling good, then go for it.  See what your body can do.   In such cases, here are some recommendations:

  1. Running into the race:  run the extra miles before the and let the race keep you going
  2. No down time:  one of the worst things you can do is get to the race too early and have to stop mid-training run.  To avoid this make sure you start your training run race ready (bib on and all), run near the race, keep track of “real” time and if you get to the race to early just keep your body moving
  3. Listen to your body:  Remember above all else this is not your goal race.  If you feel good, great, but if not, remember this is truly a training run.  If you need to walk, walk.

So this brings me to this weekend.  Last weekend, I raced the Perfect 10.  It was incredible.  In the beginning of September, I raced a half marathon and added 3 miles to make it 16, it went really well! Everything clicked.  The next weekend I ran 14 miles and had a 5K in that, it was OK.


All smiles at the end of the race!

I know this weekend, I need to just train.  Just add those miles, no big deal.  But then I look at the results from last year and I think maybe just maybe if I bring my “A” game I could place.  This is dangerous territory.  I know I need to focus on training and not racing right now, but it is very, very tempting.   I am planning on listening to my body and seeing how it goes.  I just hope my race mind does not take over!

Do you race to train or train to race?  What do you advise?

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