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Pilk’s Points: Serial Racing

Signing up for a lot of races? Make sure you're being smart about it.

Signing up for a lot of races? Make sure you’re being smart about it.

There seems to be a trend that’s gaining momentum—serial racing. Perhaps I’m a bit behind the times and this has always been a “thing” but when my runner friends are approaching me with questions on how to execute half marathons on back-to-back Sundays or completing those crazy multi-day half marathon and marathon challenges, I fall short with my response.

“Isn’t this your first half marathon?”

“Yea, but my friend is doing it, and she said it’s no big deal.”

No big deal?!

I’m a fairly seasoned runner, but—admittedly—not always a smart one. Where I fail most often is letting that pesky competitive bug overpower that quiet little voice saying, Hey Caitlyn, maybe the better option is to not try to be fast again, because you did that last weekend. And again yesterday. Settle down.

Before you hop on the serial racing bandwagon, take heed in what I discovered for myself through some premature racing decisions:

  1. Running and racing are different—or rather, training and racing are different, at least when your speedster self steps in and wants to go fast, fast, fast all the time. While using races as training runs is definitely a practiced method among tons of runners, consider your own fitness level and willingness to shut off the competitive voice that wants to go fast versus just get some miles in. A race bib isn’t a mandate to go fast 100 percent of the time (something I learned this year). Pick your spots wisely.
  2. Sometimes a week isn’t enough. We’ve all heard the various iterations of race recovery: One day per mile run. Two weeks. Run when you’re not sore anymore. Sometimes one week off isn’t enough—and other times taking one week off before ANOTHER race isn’t good either. If you’re gunning for a fast time the next time you take the starting line, chances are your legs and mind might need more than a week’s worth of recharging afterward before getting after it again.
  3. Chronic racing can [sometimes] take the joy out of it. It can be easy to lose your edge while training for that one big, fat goal race where everything is on the line. Racing fell flat for me during the last year, and the glory of crossing a finish line lost some of its glam when I started to punch multiple pinholes in my tanks. I do, however, appreciate that serial racing can teach runners how to perfect performance through tons of practice runs (pun intended), but if you’re really looking to go all-in to hit a big PR, then I would ditch the weekly bib parties and pick one bad-boy starting line to toe.

If your desire is to PR every single time you suit up, more power (and props!) to you! And props to those who have serial racing down to a science and totally love it (Michael Wardian, I’m looking at you!). I was never great at science, so I guess 2015 is my year to polish off one great performance by prioritizing my training and emphasizing a search for that runner’s high I lost somewhere along the way.