Why Every Runner Needs To Run A Challenging Race
Once we get a taste of what it feels like to cross that finish line, we are hooked. We hunger for more the second that medal is placed around our necks and immediately can’t wait to sign up for the next race. But it’s easy to get comfortable running the same kinds of races. Many find their “sweet spot” distance wise and hardly ever go out of their comfort zone. Not doing so only hurts us as runners. Instead, we should always be seeking for that next challenge.
Staying stagnant in our everyday running can hinder overall performance. And we are talking both distance and pace. We should look to run various distances throughout a week or month to build endurance and stamina. We should incorporate speed workouts such as tempo runs into sweat sessions to increase speed. As a result, we will continue to progress in our running journey.
Ways Runners Can Challenge Themselves
It’s easy to get swept into focusing on one particular race distance. We often start running 5ks. And with so many organized throughout the year, it’s easy to keep signing up for them to improve finish time and set new records. And this is a great goal to be the fastest and master the distance. However, challenging oneself can, in turn, make the 5k feel easier and the runner become faster at it.
There are many different ways runners can challenge themselves. And it doesn’t even require signing up for races. This could be setting monthly mileage goals or being committed to training on hills once a week. Both of these goals require dedication. The runner needs to put in the work. But they will reap the rewards when their performance increases over time.
Use a race offseason to improve on speed. Focus on track workouts if usually paved running is your thing. Hit the trails and explore the world of cross-country instead of the track for those used to the latter. Set smaller weekly goals as far as the pace for specific workouts during the week. And keep aiming to be faster each time.
Signing up for a challenging race is one of the best ways to improve as a runner. Even though we want to be the best at a favorite distance, there are plenty of other races out there to keep things fresh. We don’t grow if we stand still. Rather we need to try new challenges as a runner to becoming more well-rounded.
Signing up for a race is pulling the trigger when it comes to commitment. We must then to see the journey through, ending on race day.
So what types of races to focus on? A great challenge for any runner is finding a race that full of hills. Running hills is quite a challenge, but many runners learn to love them throughout training. It takes more effort to run uphill. The rest rate increases and more calories are burned.
Another option is to finally go for that long distance race like a half marathon, marathon or ultra race. There are even more hardcore options like Ragnar races that continue on for two days, and obstacle races like Spartan races with combine physical strength with endurance.
Then there are triathlons that require the athlete to swim, bike then run—which brings these participants into a whole other world of races. There are Ironman races, as well as popular events like Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon.
Another way to challenge oneself when racing is to set a realistic, but the ambitious pace and finish time goals at races. If the runner is reaching 8:45 minute per mile speeds during short runs, shoot for 9-minute miles throughout that entire half marathon. Set that sub 2 hour half marathon finish time for those who finished just over the 2-hour mark last go at it. Keep in mind that setting a 2-hour marathon goal isn’t a great idea for a first-timer, but finally signing up for a full and finishing at any time is a major accomplishment.
Find A Training Plan
There is a huge difference between just running two to three times a week to stay in shape or lose weight and running three times a week to complete a 5k. The latter means the runner is actually training. And training for any distance calls for a variety or workouts when it comes to the run such as a long run, tempo runs, intervals, and hills.
The key to success in reaching that new challenging goal is to find a good training plan and sticking with it.
When To Recover
Crossing a challenging race off a bucket list is just outright awesome. But remember to take the time to recover post-race. This is hard for many since they are on a runner’s high afterward. It is easy for some to get back out there and starting training for another big race. However, the body needs time to recover.
For a challenging short distance race like a 5 or 10k, take anywhere between three to five days off. This is like pressing the reset button, allowing the muscles to recoup and avoid injury. Longer distances like a half rewire anywhere from a few days to a full week of rest. Marathoner should also take a few days to a week off. The following week start back slow with short runs.
Listen to the body and know when to take a break. For example, after running a half marathon, a handful of 5ks and then a hill 15-mile race, over the course of a few months take some time off before setting new goals for the upcoming months. This prevents burning out or falling out of love with racing.
Strategies For A Challenging Race
It’s important to be in a positive mindset on race day. Know that the hard work is put in and now it’s time to enjoy the ride. Don’t go into a challenging race unsure if you can do it. Know you can. While pre-race jitters are normal, try to relax and take it each mile at a time.
A great strategy for the first time long distances is to separate the race into sections like a 5k, 10k, half, full etc. Focus on getting to that distance. Use incentives like water or an energy gel when reaching that 5, 10 or 15-mile mark.
Have fun with the hills. Slow the pace down when climbing, leaning forward a bit and pump those arms. Let loose on the downhill, imagine you are flying and use gravity to ride out that speed.
Know when it’s time to hydration and fuel up to prevent hitting the wall. This should be down pat during training so there are no surprises on race day.
Keep a strong mental state by repeating positive words of encouragement. Celebrate mini-victories along the way like keeping a consistent pace or reaching a certain mile marker. Know that you have come this far now to not give up. Cross that finish line proudly, proving you can take on any new challenge.