Chanman's Blog

Using Races for Training

Posted in Coaching,Training Thoughts by Andy Chan on February 20, 2010
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Running a Category 1 race

There is definitely a need to balance between over-racing and rarely racing. High school and college runners, who often compete every weekend and in some cases multiple times in the same week because of their team’s schedule, are at one extreme. Elite professional runners are at the other end of the spectrum. 

Jarrett Moore is the top distance runner on the Sacred Heart Cathedral team. In 2009 he ran at fourteen track & field meets (often more than one race per meet) and ten cross country meets. By my count in 2009 elite professional runner Ryan Hall ran four races: the Gasparilla 15K in March, the Boston Marathon in April, the Philadelphia Distance Run in September and the New York City Marathon in November. 

I think there is nothing wrong with racing and it is good for the Pamakid runners to have people out at races wearing the uniform and scoring points for the team. This is one way to approach racing. 

I suggest you put every race on your schedule into one of three categories: 

Category 1 – Goal races 

Category 2 – Race hard and be competitive 

Category 3 – Race as a workout 


These are the races that all your training is geared towards. If your goal is a marathon or half marathon, there may be only two to four races in this category all year. If you are more inclined towards the 5K or the 10K, you may have one race per month in this category. Characteristics of goal races: you probably taper for the race, since this race is a goal race that you are peaking for it’s probably the end of a training cycle, you may take a break after this race. 


Races in this category are still serious. You need races like this to keep your competitive edge during the long periods between your goal races. You may do little or no taper before the race but you will still probably put on your racing flats and give a good hard effort. Giving a good hard effort at a race like this, in fact, may be part of your training for the goal race. This isn’t the “end of the rainbow race” but I still advocate that you should approach the race with a competitive mindset. 


Running a Category 3 race

These races are really glorified workouts. You can treat it as a tempo run. Wear your uniform to show club pride but you probably won’t lace up your racing flats. At a race like this it is of the utmost importance to show patience and follow the race plan. Run the pace prescribed by your coach or that corresponds to a pace chart for your “tempo pace.” Running this kind of race too hard or too fast puts you in danger of “leaving your goal race out on the course of the workout race” and not being recovered for your next hard training session. A tip to help prevent racing too hard is to disassociate the result of the race. In other words have no emotional attachment to the result. When I run races as a workout I have been known to register as “Andrew Chan” instead of “Andy Chan” and to pin my bib number on my chest instead of my shorts (I always pin the bib number to my shorts when I planning to be competitive!). 

Some real life examples of Pamakids using this category system:

  Denis Many people John S Danielle
Category 1 KP Half Boston or Big Sur Marathon Portland HalfBay to Breakers Woodminster  Across the Bay 12KZippy 5K 
Category 2   KP HalfAcross the Bay 12K  Couples RelayAcross the Bay 12K   
Category 3 DSE Waterfront 10 DSE Waterfront 10Running is my High DSE Easter Race  Running is my HighZippy 5K Memorial Day 10K  Running is my High


I looked closely at Brett Gotcher’s 2009 racing season leading up to his marathon debut last month. Below is my speculation of what importance or value Gotcher and his coach, Greg McMillan, placed on each of the races he ran. Even if my guess is not correct I think it’s a very nice guide to show how a professional runner spaces out races and uses races to prepare for goal races.

Jan 18, 2009 USATF Half Marathon Champs (Houston) 1:02:09, 3rd 1
Feb 8, 2009 USATF Winter Cross Country Champs 36:41, 7th 1
Mar 14, 2009 USATF 15K Champs 44:09, 7th 2
Mar 28, 2009 IAAF World Cross Country Champs (12K) 38:01, 75th 1
Apr 21, 2009 1500 meters (track) 3:49.88 2
June 12, 2009 5000 meters (track) 14:16.89 2
Sept 7, 2009 USATF 20K Champs 58:57, 1st 2
Oct 11, 2009 IAAF World Half Marathon Champs 1:05:43, 64th 1
Jan 17, 2010 Houston Marathon (marathon debut) 2:10:35, 7th 1


One last example of a potential fall schedule:

  This could be you
Category 1 CIM Marathon
Category 2 Bridge to Bridge 7K/12KClarksburg 30K 
Category 3 PA XC racesTurkey Trot 

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