For many runners, training schedules will include runs at specific paces- race pace, tempo, variable, easy- and while training runs generally happen with running groups, friends, or solo, there are huge benefits to using races as training runs. Here are a few:
- Water Stops: Carrying hydration and/or locating water fountains on training runs can present logistical problems and going too long without water can kill a hard or long training run. Most races will have water and Gatorade about every mile, making hydration a non-issue.
- Bathrooms: Like water stops, having access to “facilities” on a training run comes in pretty handy when nature calls. Races place portable bathrooms anywhere from every mile to every three miles.
- Police Support: Pedestrians and cyclists have been increasingly at risk with the level of distracted drivers growing every year. Having a “closed course,” meaning one that is protected with support of law enforcement and runners have the right of way, means less danger and better opportunities to get in an uninterrupted workout.
- Other Runners: Having a group of people running with you can work wonders for mental strength! Finding others at your pace to run alongside or “going fishing” while trying to reel in that runner ahead of you can make pushing yourself easier and less daunting.
- Crowd Support: It’s a rare occasion to have spectators cheering for a training run, but in a race, people line the streets to help the runners along (hopefully to that next PR). Who doesn’t love a toddler with a cow bell?!
- The Swag: Most races offer shirts and other perks for registering to run their race (and you SHOULD register…please don’t bandit). A runner can never have too many race shirts.
- Post-Race Party: Food, drinks, and comradery with new and old running buddies following a race makes any difficult workout or long race training run so much better and there is another goal to getting finished, aside from just finishing the run.
- Really Great Runs: Who knows what might come from using a race as a training run? A PR? Placing overall or in age group? Crushing your workout? Getting a boost in confidence? Anything is possible!
- One Run Closer to the Real Race: Working a training calendar, as it’s written, is hard. Checking off a hard workout on that calendar is priceless.
Runners in training have been known to run a 5K in prep for a 10K or a 10K in prep for a half marathon. Some runners even run marathons in prep for another marathon just to get a good long run with all the reasons listed above (22 mile training runs are so much easier in races…last 4 miles super easy).
Whatever the reason for registering for a race, enjoy the journey to the start line by sprinkling in a few shorter races along the way. It might make all the difference in the way you feel about running and how well you race!