Coach Mike Mead

March 2013

Chart Your Course for Successful Racing

I have written many of these columns which I hope have been useful to you, the reader, in becoming a more complete runner. I recently realized that I don’t think I ever have addressed the topic of a year-long training plan.

As a college coach, our cross country and track & field athletes are guided throughout the year on training specifics. However, most runners beyond high school or college do not have a personal coach unless they pay someone knowledgeable to guide them.

I’ve written before that it is good to have someone who can observe, teach, and motivate during certain stretches of training. If you cannot afford to hire a coach, you can make improvements with your running if you develop a year-long plan.

I’ve observed too many runners over the years who seem to race more than they train. I get that to a point, that is, the social side of running. To become any good at running, you have to have a good training program to follow so that you can better enjoy the social side, as well as the competitive side.

Do you have a training plan or schedule? What are the two or three BIG RACES you’re pointing for this year? If you don’t know, then you need to develop a plan!

In Georgia, we’re fortune to have fairly distinct seasons when it comes to weather and weather dictates running. I view summer as the most challenging time for racing because it is so bloody hot in July and August. Many runners use the summer months as down time in training like some of our northern counterparts who take the winter months as down time.

In college, my distance runners have three seasons – cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track. For the elite runners that we’ve had currently and in the past, we look at our division’s NCAA championship meet as the competition we point for and then proceed to backtrack 8-12 weeks regarding the training.

For example, in cross country our NCAA championship meet is usually the third Saturday in November. So, 12 weeks before that date is when we want to focus on specific training that we hope will have us prepared at our peak condition for personal bests. However, for the cross country runners to be ready for the tough training, they have to spend their summer months – between June and August – running base miles.

So in actuality, for our cross country folks to be peaked in November, they have to start serious training in June which is more like 24 weeks before their BIG RACE. Leading up to the NCAA’s, you have a qualifying race (regionals) two week before the BIG ONE. Two weeks before the regionals is our conference meet. Before the conference meet, again two weeks, is a race to set it all up.

In September and early October, we’ll contest two to four meets, depending on the team make-up. If they are young and under-trained, then we have to race them a little more. A veteran runner needs fewer competitions and spends more time with training and preparation.

How does this relate to your plan?

Well, I recommend starting with two racing periods in one calendar year to start. If you begin your training on New Year’s Day, your base mileage (working up to one long run of over 12 miles, once a week) is laid through mid-March, then you work on your specific race training (strength and speed) until late May. If you are pointing for the Peachtree Road Race, then you might do base training until early April. If not, you can lay out three or four prep races between April and May with your BIG RACE in late May or early June.

If you follow my cross country example above, you can do your peak racing in late October through early December for the second half of your racing season within the calendar year.

The bottom-line is to develop a structured training and racing schedule and stick to it. Jumping in every little 5K that comes along is not going to help you in meeting your racing goals. If you feel compelled to hit a road race every Saturday for the social side, why not consider volunteering your time at a few of them instead of racing them. You can use a low-key 5K for training to work on a different aspect of your racing, but don’t stray from your schedule.

Good luck!