You signed up for a race, but as it gets closer and closer you realize that you haven’t been able to train for that distance; should you still just put your bib on and hope you get to the finish line in one piece? Often times life gets in the way with busy schedules, unforeseen events, maybe you are recovering from an injury, or a friend tries to have you join them on a long distance race when you haven’t trained as planned. Before you show up at the start line, you should consider a few technicalities.
1. What distance have you been running? A typical running training program takes about 12-18 weeks, that means being fully dedicated and involved in training. Whether you are training for a 10km, 1/2 marathon, full marathon or ultra marathon, you have to consider what distance you were able to do before you make the decision of doing the race or not. Training involves both physical and mental aspects, so not only your body needs to be prepared for the specific distance, but your brain and mental strength also has to be ready. Running a full marathon when the longest distance you have ran in months is 10kms might cause some serious physical and mental issues during the race. Not knowing if you can finish the race is not a good mindset to have at the start line.
2. Muscle memory: One positive note is that muscle memory does exist. All the changes and adaptations made in your body when you were training hard or for long distances can be retained and make it easier and faster to return to a certain fitness level.
3. Pick your race: If you’re focusing on a specific race in the near future and are planning to run a long distance now even though you haven’t been training enough, this could jeopardize your future race. You have to make the decision on which race is more important to you.
4. Injuries: Long distance running can often trigger some niggle and slight pain. If you have been training for months to run a long distance race you are probably prepared to deal and push through some pain. But on the other hand, if you’ve been dealing with an injury that is not 100% healed, you are putting yourself at risk of a recurring injury by running the race.
5. To race or not: Running and racing are two different things. If you’re going to do a long distance race without the proper training, you should not aim for a PR. By running slowly and taking it easier, you might be able to make it to the finish line feeling fine and without any injuries. You can use some races for training only.
6. Fitness Levels: Even though you might not have been following a specific long distance race training program, maybe you have increased your running distance, or have done some intense cross training. Take a look at your fitness level, and maybe running a long distance race might not be a huge shock to your body. But if the longest run you’ve done is 5-10kms and no other training, don’t put on your bib!
Doing a race that you haven’t trained for might trigger lots of painful issues, and make recovery time much longer and challenging. It is important to be reasonable and look at the fact that there are many more races to come:)
Train Hard, Eat Right, Feel Great!