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A FitSugar Reader Asks: Why Train For a Race?

Race Training and "Proper Preparation"

Sugar user fizzymartini is perplexed by the whole notion of training for a race and posted her query in the RunningSugar group.

I must admit to being entirely puzzled by the concept of training for races, and the preparation that takes you up to the final days before a big race.

Before my first 10K, I scoured the websites and researched preparation thoroughly. I tapered my runs following a plan I found online, did interval training, hydrated zealously in the days prior and "carbo-loaded" the day before. And the race was fine, I was able to run a decent time and was pleased that the prep had clearly paid off.


For my next 10K about half a year later, I was much worse prepared. I didn't train as frequently in the run-up, had a complete lack of plan and didn't eat particularly well beforehand. Yet the race was fine, I beat my previous time and didn't even feel as tired as the time before.

My next race was one year later - a half-marathon - and I managed to kick it up a gear in the complete dopey unpreparedness. Not on purpose, mind . . . as far as I was aware, I had no plans at all and hadn't run for at least five months prior. I had taken a break from running (merely down to laziness, admittedly) and had gone on holiday, where I proceeded to do no physical exercise, consumed copious amounts of alcohol and amp; "bad" food and very late nights. Then right on my return home, a friend handed me her place in a half-marathon, taking place in two days' time. Now I'd never run more than 10K . . . has anyone ever watched the episode of How I Met Your Mother, where Barney just wakes up and runs a marathon? (Quote: "Step one, you start running. There is no step two.”) - I literally did that! Yet not only did I (miraculously!) manage to finish and feel fine, but I also managed a faster time than my extremely fit friend, who had been training for months on end (and was teetotal for weeks before).

Which leads me to question the validity of training? Does it actually counteractively exhaust you? Or is it a mental boost? What does everyone think, and has anyone ever really seen a vast difference between training and not before a race?

Always on the run? Then join and post on RunningSugar where the conversation just jogs along.

Image Source: Getty
fizzymartini fizzymartini 7 years
Thanks for all the comments! Very interesting to hear everyone's experiences and thoughts about training. I must say that you struck a heck of a bell with me there, arismella - you're absolutely right, it shouldn't be all about race-day at all, but the discipline and determination to keep up a regimented (or even just regular) running plan. Which is something I clearly lack, and should work on! Very humbling, thanks... I'm resolved to dust off the sneaks and earn what will hopefully be my next big finisher's medal - the 2011 London Marathon - properly...
inlove23 inlove23 7 years
I couldn't imagine not training?! I think for races (training for a half marathon) you have to train both mentally and physically. I read in a runner's world journal that the brain is a muscle that you have to train, just like your legs. While I agree that you never know what exactly is going to happen on race day it's better to be prepared than to just wing it because no one wants an injury! Ps. maybe you are a true runner and that's why you did better than your friend! I mean everyone's body is programmed differently so maybe yours is just built better for it.
arismella arismella 7 years
Training for a race isn't just about hitting a goal on race day. It also means benefiting from consistent running throughout the training period. So... You may have run the half-marathon faster than your friend, but your friend ran much more than your 13.1 miles! For those who train, a finisher's medal can mark much more than just one day's work.
SaraJeanQueen SaraJeanQueen 7 years
Interesting post! I think 6.2 miles is not long enough of a race to base the results on physical stamina.. mental toughness, and also considering the fact you probably do many other types of cardio Fitsugar, means you were just as prepared for a short race like that. My sister started training for her first 10K (the longest she's ever run outside) and three weeks before, came down with horrible bronchitis. She ran 2 more short runs before the 10K, and did great! Personally though, I always have to run the length of the race a week beforehand, almost as a mental gift to myself. If I don't, I'll be up nights wondering, "Can I make it? I've never run that far before..." When I did my first half, I ran 12 miles and was devastated when I had to walk at mile 11 for a bit. (Didn't eat enough, it was super hot in Seattle that day and a very hilly run). I ended up doing awesome in the race though; 1:47. As for the HIMYM episode where he just runs the marathon, I will check that out.. not a big fan of the show but that sounds like a good storyline.
darc5204 darc5204 7 years
I think it's important to be fit and trained enough to not hurt yourself, but I've never followed a race plan. I think some people need the structure and rules to feel comfortable, but maybe not everyone. Still, I wouldn't advocate going off-the-cuff on something too far beyond your current routine.
kclulu kclulu 7 years
Sometimes I think how you perform in a race is a crap shoot. I ran my 4th marathon recently with my boyfriend. It was his first marathon and he really struggled with training - always seemed to have some ache or pain and was considerably slower than me. My training went fantastic, the best I had ever felt but the day of the marathon I had stomach problems (even though i ate what I always do beforehand) and I had foot problems while my boyfriend did wonderful and had no problems whatsoever. I was very proud of him but really annoyed at the same time. Maybe if I kept really detailed logs I could pinpoint where the problem might have been, but I just don't have the patience for it. I learned from that race that no matter how hard you train and how prepared you are, things can go wrong. Preparing for a race isn't just about the race itself though, It is all the miles and experiences you have training for it too. You learn a lot about yourself in that time and I also learned a lot about my boyfriend and our relationship. We got really close during those months and that means a lot more than any time I could have gotten. That being said, I think consistent training, nutrition and a good attitude can influence your race performance but there is always that element of luck that you can't control.
JulieJean JulieJean 7 years
I think it depends on how fit you are to begin with. Other than that, I sure hope training helps, I'm running a half next week!
TidalWave TidalWave 7 years
I agree with the OP. I actually didn't know you were supposed to prepare (the hydration and carb thing) for a 10K until I just read this post! I haven't formally trained for any race. I just run a certain amount of time and some days run farther. When I first ran a 10K, I hadn't ran more than 4 miles. Then when I ran a 15K, I hadn't ran more than 6 miles. I think it is more mental than physical. Training keeps you goal-oriented, gives you positive reinforcement and is a moral booster as your physical fitness increases. Some people need that, some people don't.
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