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You’ve Run Your Goal Race, What Now?

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After running a goal race, you may find yourself unsure of what to do next. That is a great question! Sometimes we find ourselves struggling as we head aimlessly moving forward. Why is that?

Well, if you have been training for a distance race, you likely have been completely immersed in a training plan for anywhere from 10 to 16 weeks. Figuring out how to navigate your way can be confusing and complicated!

First things first, you need to spend some time recovering.


After completing a goal race, you need to invest some time in recovery. The recovery time and method depend on a couple of things. How far did you race? How hard did you race? That is not meant to sound snarky… there is a difference between a ballbusting, give it everything you have PR 5K and an “I’m hanging out with my besties running a 5K.” If you pin on a race bib it is technically a race, but not all races are created equally.

If you are adequately trained, you likely will not need more than a couple of easy days after racing a 5K. If you race a hard 10K, you may want to take 4-6 easy days before another challenging workout.

rest day for runners

What about a longer distance race? Looking at a half marathon, you should consider taking a couple of days completely off. It is in your best interest to take it easy for anywhere from 4-7 days after completing your race. You may find yourself enjoying the opportunity to cycle or engage in some other zero or low-impact activity.

A marathon is an entirely different animal. Professionals recommend taking 5 to 7 days completely off after a marathon. Some runners do feel like doing “something” and that is where gentle cycling, elliptical or walking comes in handy.

After considering rest and easy workouts while you recover, also be sure you are properly hydrating and fueling your body to put you in the best possible situation for recovery.

Finding A New Goal

One thing you might want to consider is to find a new goal. This can be anything from a new race to run to a century bike ride to a triathlon. Or maybe you want a goal that is completely different.

For example, an avid Apple Watch user might decide to try to close all three exercise rings every day for a set amount of time.

What Is A Good Running Goal?

As you ponder a running specific goal, there are so many different paths you can travel. This could range anywhere from a new distance to tackle to a particular time you might want to reach for a set distance.  Perhaps you have a type of race you have always wanted to try. Maybe you are primarily a roadrunner and you want to dip your toes into trail running.

running goal

Or are you an avid runner and cyclist and suddenly are bit by the triathlon bug? My point is, there are many different ways to look at your running as you set new goals.

New Distance to Race: No matter what distance you have been racing, you can probably find a new distance challenge. Sure, there are your standard measurements all runners are familiar with: 5K, 10K, 13.1 and 26.2. What if you have done all of those? Are you ready for an ultra, which is anything longer than a marathon? You could find yourself training for a 30, 50 or even 100-mile race. That sure is a new and ambitious challenge!

Also, take note of less common race distances for adult runners. There is a sudden surge in popularity of the mile. Also, you can often find 15K races. There are also unusual distance races such as 4-5 milers, plus the not so uncommon 10 miler. the point is, if you pick a new distance to train for, your brain will be forced to engage in a different way!

Time Goal: Time goals are fun to keep your body training in an exciting and challenging manner. If you are just coming off of spring marathon training, this might be the perfect moment to (after your recovery time!) train for a fast 5K. This would mean less weekly mileage, shorter speed work. What an interesting mind and body shift!

Higher Weekly Mileage: Perhaps you are just coming off of your busy season at work and you are super excited to dig into something new and intense. Amping up your weekly mileage could be just the ticket! If you average between 12-15 miles each week, slowly upping it to hit 20-25 could be your next running challenge.

Maybe your goal is for a 100-mile month! For those commonly running 50-55 miles a week, maybe you will shoot for 60-65. Do you see where I am going with this? Changing your mileage could keep you thinking! Just remember to always be smart when doing this.

Change of Scenery: When I was struggling with my running mojo, I moved from the road to trails. Running trails forced me to slow down and to focus on my footing. Guess what? When I was thinking about my feet and trying to stay out of the dirt, I found myself happy and engaged.

➞ Finding Runner’s High: Another great goal may simply be to optimize your runs to achieve runner’s high. The type of running or Rate of Perceived Exertion is going to be different for everyone but optimizing for your own runner’s high may be a fun goal to achieve.

Feeling Less Than Motivated?

If you find yourself feeling less than motivated after your goal race, maybe you just need some fun. If fun is what you are craving, see if there is a local running group you can join. Having running friends is a great way to bring the sparkle back to your running!

No local group of runners? Have no fear. You may just need one accountability partner to get you out of bed and logging miles. That person does not even have to be someone who lives down the road. Knowing someone is watching for your text with daily splits may be just the catalyst you need for movement.

No Watch Me

Something else you may try is to either run naked (this means without your watch, not actually naked!) and just run by feel. Too often we find ourselves obsessed with the watch. This can be because we are honed in on pace all the time. What if you just took off the watch (or covered it with painter’s tape) and ran by feel?

running without watch

Or what if you picked a playlist with an easy cadence, measured by beats per minute (BPM), and ran according to that? You could pick different songs for different runs, and just head off by feel and the music pumping in your ears.

Find Your Happy Place

If after your goal race you are feeling a bit of a letdown, you are not alone. Runners across the globe struggle similarly in that they often need something to focus on after a race.

Whether that means another race, a new training plan or just some new running friends, the important thing is that you keep your training fresh and your brain engaged. These two things should lead to happy running. And that is what it is all about.

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