“What is hope but a feeling of optimism, a thought that says things will improve, it won’t always be bleak [and] there’s a way to rise above the present circumstances.” ―Wayne W. Dyer
I hope you are all staying safe and healthy. You may be going through the same initial disappointment that I recently went through when I found that the marathon (Colfax Marathon) I’ve been training for to run this spring will be postponed to a later date. As of this posting, it’s not clear when this event will be moved to, but it will be late summer or fall. Fortunately, this event is only being postponed, and depending on the date it gets moved to, I can still run it.
At least this event hasn’t been cancelled, but some of you may not be so fortunate, and your event may have been cancelled. This can be very frustrating, especially with all the time and effort you have put into training. I can appreciate how you feel because I’ve trained for several marathons, but something happened which forced me not to be able run the event, such as the first time I qualified for Boston and then shortly after developed a severe case of plantar fasciitis.
So what do you do?
If your event has been postponed, keep training. You will most likely need to go into maintenance mode, depending on the reschedule new date. For example, this past weekend I had a 20-miler scheduled to prepare for the Colfax Marathon, and so I ran it. However, I adjusted this run, so that I did it at a slower pace than I would if my marathon hadn’t been postponed. You might do something similar, or adjust the distance, or both pace and distance. Similarly, you will need to adjust your training, so as to delay when you achieve your peak performance level, but you want to be trained, so you can easily transition into race-specific workouts shortly before the event.
If your event has been cancelled, consider the following: how you can make the most of the training you have put in, potentially adjust your schedule for another race down the road, shift your mindset so something good can come out of this. I recently read a post from Coach Jeff Gaudette with Runners Connect that offered some sound advice.
Jeff gave different recommendations based on how far out the cancelled event was. For an event that was only 1-3 weeks away he recommends running your own race. That is, set up a course in a flat area that is free of traffic and is the same distance as your event (best if you set up a loop). You can set out water bottles and fuel similar to aid stations at an event. Warm-up and prepare like you normally would and then race your loop to the best of your ability. You might convince a fast friend to pace you or have a family member bike alongside to help you keep pace. You can even do a virtual race (search online for options), which can help increase your level of motivation. This will allow you to take advantage of your taper and the hard training you have put in.
If your cancelled race is 4-11 weeks out, Jeff recommends transitioning to maintenance mode. In this case, you would back off the intensity slightly, but keep your mileage up. Specifically, you would eliminate really tough, race-specific workouts and replace them with moderate, general workouts. This will allow you to maintain fitness and keep a solid foundation of training allowing you to more easily transition into race-specific training at a later date.
Finally, if your cancelled race is 12 weeks away or more, Jeff says this is a golden opportunity to focus on your weaknesses or address any injuries. This is an optimal time to turn a negative into a positive. Focusing on a weakness can help you make overall progress to achieving your running goals. For example, if endurance is a weakness, compared with speed (you perform better in shorter races in comparison to longer events), concentrate on longer runs and your aerobic development. Reduce the intensity of your workouts and instead increase your mileage.
If speed is your weakness (you are strong aerobically and/or an older runner), focus on improving your running mechanics and improving your speed. Slightly back off your mileage and on any tempo run sessions, and instead include more speed development work like strides, hill sprints, 200 meter intervals, as well as strengthening exercises for muscle weaknesses and imbalances.
If you are consistently injured, focus on what you need to get healthy. Now would be a great time to back off on training and focus on rehab. This includes dedicating time for strengthening exercises, foam rolling, stretching, and the other little things that typically get put on the back burner when we are training for a race. This is also a great time to identify the underlying causes of any injuries and begin addressing these causes.
So, if your event has been postponed or cancelled, it can be helpful to shift your mindset and make a positive of the situation. This may not only help you with your next event, but help your become a better runner overall.
Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.
Your friend and coach,
Jeff Gaudette. Runners Connect