How many times have you had a race pop up on Facebook, Twitter, or just heard about it from a friend, and then have an immediate interest to do it? First, you count the days until the event. Then, you assess your current mileage. Next, you look to see what your long run schedule would look like between now and then.
You ask yourself a few, very valid questions…
Can I pull it off?
Will I be able to finish?
Will it even be enjoyable if I do cross the finish line?
Seems simple enough, but this is where it starts. Think about races in the past that you ran. Was this same distance easy or hard the last time? How much training did you have back then? Remember, it is safe to increase your mileage by 10% each week. If you end up jumping from 20 to 50 miles per week to fit in a really long run and some longer weekday runs, you have a very big chance of getting injured. An injury could sideline you for weeks and even months if its bad enough. One race isn’t worth that.
A very logical question to ask yourself is whether or not this race will hinder other training you are working towards. Jess talked a bit about this last week, and it really got me thinking. She brought up some great points in her post.
Running is supposed to be something that we enjoy. Sometimes it is very uncomfortable, but in the end, you should have a smile on your face. If you think during the whole race that you regret each step, then save yourself some time (and money) and just for-go the registration fee. Put the race on your calendar for next year.
So a logical question would be how soon is too soon to sign up for a race? I think it all depends on the race distance, the running base you are starting with, what you have been doing to elevate your heart rate, and your past injury history. I know, probably not the answer you want to hear, but everyone’s body is different. For a 5k, you can sign up for within a few weeks until race day. Even if you end up walking the entire thing, it is not going to put a whole lot of strain on your body. You won’t be on your feet for more than an hour (ish), so recovery is pretty minimal. As soon as you get to the 15k and higher, it gets a bit trickier.
If there is one piece of advice I want to make sure I mention, is please do not sign up for a distance at the last minute, for the first time. If you have never ran a half marathon or full marathon, giving yourself a few weeks to train is a very bad idea. You definitely don’t want your first experience of the distance to be a negative one. And trust me – if your max run has been 16 miles, one time, 26.2 is a heck of a lot further. All I am saying is respect the distance. This is no joke. The last 6 miles of a marathon are incredibly difficult, mentally and physically, whether it is your first or fiftieth race.
If you do decide that a last minute race is possible, keep a few things in mind while you are racing: