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How often should I race?
– Karl, Bismack, ND
The conventional wisdom is that a well-trained runner with a solid fitness base needs at least 12 weeks to peak for an event. Assuming four weeks of easy, no-stress running between key races, that gives you about three “A” races per year, with a one-month off-season.
However, “B” and “C” races also have a place in a training plan. B races are those where you want to perform well and are interested in the training benefit while preparing for an A race, while C races are purely for training and fun. Treat B races with focus—don’t be shy to test your limits. With C races, err on the side of starting more relaxed and picking up the pace as you go, with the goal of feeling like a million bucks at the finish line.
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Both B and C races act as wonderful long tempo runs and can spur many positive physiological adaptations. I recommend a B race every four to six weeks and C races whenever the mood strikes (but no more than every other week). Usually, you can take one or two days of rest afterward and jump right back into serious training.
For B races, make sure that they bear a resemblance to your eventual A race. You can’t expect to run a fast road 5K if you are training for a trail 50-miler. For C races, there are no rules, other than avoiding ultras or other epic events that require too much recovery.
David Roche partners with runners of all abilities through his coaching service, Some Work, All Play. With Megan Roche, M.D., he hosts the Some Work, All Play podcast on running (and other things), and they wrote a book called The Happy Runner.
This article originally appeared in our September 2016 issue.