Pros and Cons of using a race as a training run.

I really enjoyed running the Canmore Rocky Mountain half marathon on the weekend. I like going into races with the (mostly) stress free mindset of knowing that it is just another run, just another training Sunday, and really nothing to get nervous about. The races I feel and do my best are the ones that I go into with an (almost) carefree mindset of knowing that it is just a run and my life won’t end if I don’t hit a certain time goal or don’t run a certain pace.

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I don’t know if I have ever used a race as a long run before. It was kind of awesome, but of course there are drawbacks to adding a bit of competition and race-day atmosphere to a long run. In my books long runs are supposed to be done SLOW, steady, and with endurance over speed as the goal. I run based on feel, but even if I’m feeling awesome, I don’t run my fastest. I used to get really nervous for even my long runs and that was before I developed the mindset of using the long run as a chance to escape the world for a few hours, running however slow I wanted, and simply enjoying putting one step in front of the other.

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PROS of using a race as a long run:

  1. You feel like hundreds of other people came out to do your weekend long run with you. I seriously felt like I had so many supporters out there training with me haha!
  2. You can run slower than a goal race, and really take in the entire race weekend experience without letting nerves ruin it.
  3. You can practice race day simulation of fuelling. Fun fact: The Canmore half was the first time I had EVER fuelled on the course of a half marathon. Usually I go without energy chews for a half race but I practiced my fuelling by wearing my belt and timing my energy intake this time!
  4. You can have a real dress rehearsal. I loved my race day outfit and pending the weather situation, I think I found the clothes that work!
  5. You are running your “easy” pace and everyone else is giving it their all so you look like you are exerting hardly any effort and it’s kind of fun. 😉
  6. You are most likely running on a course that isn’t your usual training route. For me it’s great to get out of my city and off of my usual route in order to challenge my body and train on different terrain.

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CONS of using a race as a long run:

  1. It’s a LOT harder to control your pace with the energy of race day. I usually run a 9:00min/mile long run pace and on race day I ran a 8:27min/mile because it was really hard to keep myself from going fast with everyone else!
  2. I know this one is ridiculous but I felt I had to explain to people that this was just a training run for me because I know I could have run a bit faster and done a faster half marathon if I was actually “racing.” Petty, I know.
  3. Finding races that fit your marathon training schedule can be tricky. I was actually looking to race a half marathon in early August as a “training race” but I couldn’t find one that worked with my schedule. Ideally, running a half four weeks before a marathon probably isn’t the best idea but who knows?
  4. It’s costing you a fair bit of money just to do a “training run.” Albeit some races are definitely less expensive but if you are simply signing up to run your long run with a bib, it might be a tad pricey. (If it’s Canmore or Banff this con isn’t relevant.)

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I found it to be a pretty neat experience to do a long run as a race. It felt good to test run the race atmosphere while at the same time being able to enjoy the race experience by taking it easy and moderating my pace. I still had butterflies, of course, but if I had placed all of my life hopes and dreams on this one race I might not have enjoyed it as much as I did!

Have you ever used a race as a training run?

Do you ever run the full distance before race day or do you run say 12 miles for a half and 20 miles for a full?

Perfect race fuel for YOU?

6 Comments

  1. I’ve never used a race as training before – I don’t know if I’d be able to resist giving it my all when everyone else around me is though! Maybe if I run another half or two next year I’ll find a training 5 or 10 k.
    Even though this was only a training run for you, you did awesome!!

  2. Race fuel – honey stinger gels. Can’t beat ’em 😉

    Training for a marathon I won’t do the full distance but I’ll get pretty close. I did 22 miles, with 8 at marathon pace or faster, on Sunday with Chicago only 4 weeks out. I feel like hitting paces in those long workouts gives a lot of confidence going into the full race.

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