I have a lot of athletes ask if they should skip a race if it falls in their marathon training plan. It is a tough decision if you really like to race. When you race, you are giving your best effort, which leaves you quite drained. The problem with this is that most races are on weekends. Weekends are usually when long training runs happen. So how do you do both? Is it safe to do both? Here are a couple suggestions.
1. Decide if you really want to do the race. Will you regret missing it? If yes, go for it! Just adjust your training before and after the race so that you have ample recovery time from your all-out-effort. Postpone that that long weekend run until the following weekend. Look at a calendar or your training plan and make sure you will be able to meet your mileage goals while still running the race. If there is room for some flexibility, it will work. You don’t want to make your marathon training miserable. If races make you happy, you can find a way to make it happen.
2. Incorporate the race into your weekend long run. Get to the race early, do a portion of your long run before the race, run the race, and then do the rest of the miles as the cool down. Your race time may not be as fast as it would have been without the extra miles before it, but you get your miles in and quenched your desire to race. You might just have to leave your pride at the start line if you are worried about putting up a new PR every race. This will also be a good way to add a speed workout into your long run. This method should be done with caution if your legs are feeling fatigued from the race or the extra miles before the race. If you have a coach, let them know far enough ahead to add the race into your plan.
Always look at the big picture. Will the race benefit your training and marathon performance? Will you be upset if you miss the race? Which do you value more?
Or ask your coach. He will help you weigh your options. That is what I have to. I have a bad habit of hitting the “Register Now” button before I have fully looked at my training calendar. Sometimes that extra “voice of reason” is all it takes to make your decision an easy one.