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5 Tips for Scheduling Your Races

Whether you just made your new years resolution to finish a 5k, 10k, or Marathon, or you have been running races for years; choosing which races to run, and finalizing your race schedule can be a daunting, and time consuming task. As much as race calendars like Running In The USA, RRCA and (shameless plus) Runners On The Go help. Sometimes having all that race info at your fingertips can make the process even more time consuming.

As January ends and you start putting the finishing touches on your race calendar, consider these 5 tips.
1. Know Your Running Goal
Before you decide what races you are going to do this year, you have to know what you want to gain from the experience. Do you want to run a PR? Do you want to finish your first Marathon? Do you want to run 50 Marathons in 50 states?
It doesn’t matter what your goal is. Any goal is a good goal as long as it is challenging but achievable. However, before you go around choosing your races and checking your shirt size you have to think about things on a macro scale.
Write down what your goal is for the year and then attack your race scheduling with that goal in mind.
2. Timing of the Race
Not the literal timing of the race, but the time of year. A successful race calendar builds. Of course this depends on when in the year your target race is and when you start your training cycle. For example if you are running the Boston Marathon, then your Schedule will look different than if you just want to finish a 10K in 2015.
Either way the concept is the same though. The Schedule builds. Running and racing are like anything. Practice makes perfect. If your goal is to finish your first 10K this year, and you can’t do that right now, you wouldn’t expect to step out the door tomorrow and trot a nice, easy 6.2 miles.
You want to asses the shape you are in now, and assess your goal. You want to set intermediate goals that you think will be stepping stones on the way to reaching your goal.
Pick a race at the time of year when you expect to be able to reach your primary goal, then set intermediate goals at checkpoints during the year that will help you to reach your primary goal. The first step to setting your race calendar is choosing the dates that you will attempt your primary goal, and then choosing the dates that you want and expect to be able to achieve your intermediate goals.
3. Pin Down the Racing Logistics
Once you have your goal in mind Consider the details of the race. What is the race distance? Do you need a fast course? Do You want to travel or make a vacation out of it? Do you want to achieve your goal at any one particular race? Does your goal involve more than one race?
Pinning down the race logistics may be easy to do, or it may not be. For example, if my goal is to beat last years’ time at my local 5k, then pinning down the race logistics is simply a matter of finding out the race date, and time, etc.
However, if You are trying to achieve a Boston Qualifier then there are all sorts of logistics to consider. You will have to have a course that is an official Boston Qualifying course, you will want a fast course, you will want a group of people, or pacer going the pace you need, etc.
Based on your goal decide what kind of race you need, answer the classic 5 W’s and 1 H who, what, when, where, why, and how. You don’t have to pin down exactly what race you are doing, just think about what you will need and where you will need to be to achieve your goal.
You may not be able to pin down all the logistics. For example, if you live in Alaska and you know you need to run a Marathon in December, you may not know exactly where the race is going to be. That’s OK, work out as many of the details you can.
4. Do Your Running Road Race Homework
Now that you have a general idea of when and where you are racing, and what type of race you need to be in. It is time to start actually investigating races. This is where you will use Road Race Calendar websites. Use them to search out the time of year and location (if you know it) that you will need.
Don’t just choose the first race you come to that will be sufficient for your needs. Do your homework. Does the race have a website. Check the online reviews of the race. Check the results. Have they been having more and more finishers each year? Growth is a sign of a quality race. Look at the course, will it be sufficient for your goal? Check the results to see if there will or will not be a group of people to run with if you are trying to achieve a certain time.
Just like you would do your homework before making a purchase of a certain product, you want to do it before committing to a road race.
5. Create the Rest of Your Race Calendar
Essentially step 5 is to repeat steps 1 through 4 for the rest of the races that will lead up to your key race. For all of your lead in races you will have to consider what goals you need to set to be able to achieve your primary goal. You will then decide when you would like to achieve those goals to give you the best chance of achieving your primary goal and seek out races at those times.
Runners use many different methods to put together a race calendar. Also, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to running. Some people may need to run a race every two weeks for the months leading up to their goal. Others may not want to run any races. If you have a coach or running advisor, I would strongly urge you to consult with them when putting together your race calendar. Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy it. Running can be a physical and mental struggle, and you don’t want to make it stressful by sweating over your race calendar. Remember that you are setting goals, and putting together a race calendar because you enjoy running.
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