Should you throw in a half marathon or a shorter race in your training for a full marathon? Or a 10K in your training for a half? The authors of Run Less, Run Faster do not recommend it, because runners often get swept up in the excitement of the race and end up running it faster than the targeted training pace, or running farther than planned for the scheduled training distance. I, however, have a 13-mile training run on the calendar for Saturday, and the targeted training pace would leave me with a PR in the half marathon (I ran my one-and-only half at the OC Marathon last year in 1:55:10). I am not worried about running faster than the targeted training pace of 8:35; in fact I am hoping the adrenaline of the race and the fun of running somewhere new will push me to hit the pace. [Edited to add: I ended up running the Spring Blast Half Marathon at an 8:40 pace in 1:53:34 for a PR of 1 minute 36 seconds! You can read the race recap and review here.]
A “B” goal race tucked into the training for an “A” goal race can do several things:
- Shake off the cobwebs and get you ready for the big race.
- Allow you to practice your race day preparation: carb-loading, breakfast before the race, clothing, gear and fuel.
- Boost your confidence if you do relatively well.
- Show you where you can improve from your mistakes in the “B” race so you don’t repeat them on “A” race day.
The trick is to choose your “B” race wisely.
- Chose a race that is as close to the planned training run distance as possible. You might think you’ll run a 10K and tack on an extra 3 miles to get your 9 mile training run in, but it’s not easy to do. I’ve done that once after the La Habra 10K and it was not easy, nor was it exactly wise to race my hardest then slog through three more slow miles just to get the mileage in. I didn’t injure myself but I’m not sure I did myself any favors either. That said, I still don’t regret it.
- Find a race that mimics the “A” race course, if possible. The last 6 miles of the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon run along the beach boardwalk in Ventura. For my “B” race this weekend, I’ve chosen to run the Spring Blast Half Marathon along the beach boardwalk in Huntington Beach. You better believe I’ll be using the opportunity to visualize those last six miles along the beach as I run Saturday’s race.
- Don’t go for something new. It’s a bad idea to pick a trail race, a mud run, or an obstacle run if you’re training for a road race. Only the opposite might be true — I imagine it would be fine to run a “B” road race if you’re training for a trail race, although it would be a shame to miss an opportunity to practice racing on the trails before the big day.
What not to do:
- As I mentioned above, it’s not a good idea to give the “B” race your all-out effort, above and beyond your goal training pace. You risk injury and if even you are not injured, it will take you longer to recover from the run than it would have if you stuck to your goal training pace. Now, if I happen to hit the targeted 8:35 for 12 miles and still feel pretty good, I’m not promising I won’t give it a little kick at the end. 😉
- Don’t try out new gear. We all know it’s never a good idea to wear new clothing or gear on race day and you should not be tempted to break that rule for a “B” race training run. I got these beauties in the mail today, but I won’t be putting them on for Saturday’s race:
Wouldn’t the green be perfect for a “Spring Blast” half marathon?! Still, I refuse to be temped.