Find Your Race Niche

by Karl Gruber

By now, you should be back into the swing of things with running. As you incorporate a slow, progressive build-up of mileage, try to throw in some harder workouts like strides, tempo runs, and even track workouts. You are feeling strong and you may even have a race or two lined up for the Fall.

I like to call this finding your running niche. What I mean by this is that as the months and years go by,  you find out just what works. I know a number of runners who have successfully completed two marathons in two weeks, back-to-back.  While a challenge, it is certainly not impossible. From 1996 to 1997, I successfully completed 52 marathons in 52 weeks and while I wouldn’t recommend it (nor was it smart, unless you like to feel “beat up” for an entire year), it is possible. 

For my elite racers, I recommend two races a year – one in the Spring and one in the Fall. This keeps them in a nice rhythm of training. Once you experience how your body reacts to hard training, then you can decide if running more than one or two races a year feels right. 

Training for and running multiple races each year is not for everyone. Aside from being physically demanding, training requires an extensive amount of time and commitment and is extremely difficult to keep up with once life gets busy. 

If you seek to accomplish something as challenging as running multiple marathons in a fairly short span of time, you most definitely need to stay alert to any signs of overtraining. In a study done by Richard Brown for the Athletics West Track Club in Eugene, Oregon (R.L.Brown, 1983), Brown found that there are five indicators of overtraining:

  1. Progressive loss of weight
  2. Increased fluid intake in the evening
  3. Progressively later bed time
  4. Decreased sleep
  5. Persistent increase of 5 to 10 beats per minute in early morning pulse rate

From Dr. Tim Noakes’ book, Lore of Running, the late, great marathon icon, Grete Waitz, suggests “never try to overcome overtraining by force. She stresses that when in doubt, one should try to rest rather than train hard; one should not be overambitious and one should not over-race.” Waitz continued by saying “if it’s hard to sleep or I’m cranky, impatient or annoyed, I’m probably overtraining.”

You can see that there is a fine line between training and overtraining. Find your niche of what works for you in training and proceed cautiously. Remember to keep this question in the back of your mind: are you having fun and are you staying healthy and injury-free? 

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