I don’t know about you, but for the last week or so my feed has been a flurry of excitement as people hear whether they’ve secured a place for London Marathon, take the plunge and sign up for races inspired by friends who’ve raced recently and set themselves training goals for next spring. When your feed is awash with bling, PBs and race pictures it’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement and start signing up for everything under the sun.. It’s got me thinking about how hype influences our choices, and whether we’re really doing the right thing by our selves if we’re constantly racing? When we race too often we risk burn out, our bodies and our minds get tired. There are risks if we’ve not trained sufficiently, we could get injured or end up having to deal with the psychological impact of a disappointing performance. Plus it sucks to train for and run events that, quite honestly, you’re just not that in to.
I know I’m not immune to the noise, in the past I’ve been known to race every weekend for months, and even now it takes so much will power not to sign up for races. It’s hard when everyone around you is excited, when you feel like the only way you can push yourself is in a race environment and where there’s some seriously enviable bling on offer! So how do you make sure you make the right choices for you? I’ve asked PT, Backpackers Queen and all round brilliant person Megan Beggs to chat through the questions you should think about asking yourself before you press ‘buy’ on that race entry.
There seems to be key times of year when ballots open, ballots close and places become available for the next wave of races, and the running community tends to go a bit crazy. Suddenly everyone is talking about what races they’re doing, how excited they are and generally stirring up all sorts of excitement, and unfortunately too often people get caught up in the hype of it all and sign up for everything, due to the FOMO, without actually thinking.
Now as runners we all love to get involved but there a few key things I urge you all to think about before entering that next race.
What other events do you have around race time?
Yes the race might be on a free weekend but are you stacked up with social events and other races around it?
Great, A half / marathon in early March, that’s a free month but in the 3 months prior you have Christmas with the family, News Years with friends, two other fun races you’ve already signed up for and a skiing trip. Now that sounds like a wonderful 3 months but (1) how much energy are you going to have left over to run another race at the end of it? and (2) when will you fit in your training (see point 2 below)?
Yes events are exciting and fun (both social and races) but they take a lot out of us mentally and physically. Put that on top of everything else going on in your life, plus the months of training for the event, and your body will be at breaking point! Cue injury and exhaustion!
So grab yourself a yearly calendar, plaster it on your wall, write up all your events and use this to help you plan, before you sign up for that next event.
Will you be able to put in the training required?
Although a race is only one day, as I mentioned above the training should roughly cover the 3 months prior. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a beginner, you should always be putting in the training to prepare your body for a race. Even if you’re not after that PB (and who are we kidding the majority of us are!), your body needs time to adapt and prepare for the challenge of racing. If you want to come out the other side injure free, you need to be putting in 2-3 mid week runs, strength training, mobility training, weekend long runs and rest - all of which take up a large chunk of your life. Are you willing to make sacrifices to fit it all in? So again, make sure you check the months prior to ensure you can give your training and race 100%.
Is this what YOU actually want to do?
Will this race actually benefit your goals? It may sound great to sign up because everyone else is and the pressure / FOMO is real, but if it’s not a goal of yours or if it doesn’t help you progress towards your goals is it really worth it? Why run a marathon if your dream is to do a sub 2 hour half marathon? Yes a marathon might be right up there for your mate, but it doesn’t have to be on your bucket list. Why not tackle something that’ll help you smash your own goals, like some shorter distance races to work on your speed, and then a couple of halves throughout the year? Sit down, write out what you want out of running and use this list to make your choices every time a new race become available [pro tip - stick it up somewhere obvious at home, not only will it help you make smart decisions about race entries, it’ll also inspire your training!].
If you can follow these steps your next race year will be a stress free, fun and goal smashing time.