Looking to have a break out racing season or trying to figure out the best way to improve your marathon PR? A lot of the time, athletes get to comfortable in training for longer distance road races. There seems to be a tendency to stray away from the shorter races with fear of not performing at the level they would like. Often runners identify themselves in regards to what racing distances they compete at and forget to look at the bigger picture of being a runner.
During the winter months of the Midwest it can often times be hard to get in the necessary speed work. With a good base established over the winter months, it’s important to move your training to the next level. Entering yourself into some early season shorter racing can give you the added boost you need to have a break out season.
In my build up to the 2010 Boston Marathon I was living and training in Minneapolis. The Twin Cities were in the midst of one of the worst winters that I have ever been through. I was unable to get in the type of speed work needed during my workouts while training in Minnesota. So instead of relocating to a warmer climate I schedule several races on the indoor track circuit, ranging from 800 meters to 3000 meters. As a marathon athlete, anything shorter than 10 kilometers is considered a sprint in my book. I was able to swallow my pride of running a lot slower and getting beat in a good portion of these races. I noticed a huge improvement in my form and my ability to stay relaxed while running at a faster pace. I did not set any PRs on the track that season. However, my goal race was the marathon that spring, and I ended up taking two minutes off my best marathon time, running 2:13 and finish 12th at the Boston Marathon.
This spring I encourage every runner to get a little out of their comfort zone and mix their racing schedule up a bit. Jump in some of those great local road races around the city and challenge yourself to set some new PRs in distances that you have not raced in a while. Even if the outcome is not what you expected it might pay dividends in the later portion of the season.