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How to Balance Races with Marathon Training

Every runner needs to learn how to balance races with marathon training in order to a) get the most of their training and b) still have some fun. That said, it is an artful balance. Find out how to balance races with marathon training on this week’s Running Coaches Corner!

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Today, you all are getting a two-fer: a) you are getting an informative post and b) you are getting a peek at the Coach Suz Letter, the twice-monthly newsletter that I offer. Not only does the Coach Suz Letter offer advice on topics from safely transition between seasons to cross training to marathon training, but every subscriber will get my Runner Warm Up and Hip and Ankle Strengthening Exercises, perfect for prehab and injury prevention! All you have to do is sign up!

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Now, let’s dive into a recent edition of the Coach Suz Letter!

Learn just how to balance races with marathon training so that you can get the most of your training and avoid runner FOMO! Also, join up with Running Coaches' Corner.

How to Balance Races with Marathon Training


Summer = Racing vs.Training

How do you balance fall goals with summer wants?

We all know the feeling. FOMO. There is a race this weekend, and we want in. But we are also training for a race in the fall. And we want to PR in both, and SO MANY PEOPLE will be running this race this weekend. And it’s just a few miles. That won’t matter… right?
Yes and no. Let me explain:

No: Typically, the shorter the race distance, the harder you are going to run. Additionally, you are unlikely to be trained for that speed and that distance. You might be doing speed work during the week, but as a coach, I am unlikely to prescribe 5k pace for my clients training for a marathon. So though you might want to race race race, think about the risk/reward: is the reward of racing all out for a PR worth the risk of pulling a muscle because you aren’t trained up for it? 

Yes: To play devil’s advocate, there is no reason to say that racing a 5k or 10k in the midst of training is a bad decision. In fact, I often have my clients race and do time trials during their training. But how do you make it work in the midst of marathon training? I’m a believer in looking at the amount of work and percentage of hard miles over the course of the week. So maybe don’t do a second speed workout during that week, and consider flipping a run or two. Maybe do your long run during the week and then have your race that weekend (talk with your coach and double check! This will also depend on the distances you are planning for your long run and your race). 

Yes 2: Work that race into your long run, but realize that you are unlikely to be able to go as all out as you might otherwise. Maybe do the bulk of your long run first, and then finish your miles with the race for a practice with a fast finish. Myself, I work half marathons into my training as a mental prep for race day and also mental strength (you know you won’t wimp out on your long run if it is during a race!). 

The most important thing to keep in mind regardless is pick your priority. Long term glory or short term satisfaction?

Manage your expectations, stick to your plan, talk to your coach.Some clients want to do #alltheraces, and it is my job to help them do that in a way that is safe and productive. Let’s talk if you need some help managing your race schedule!

Happy Racing, and Happy Running!






Coach Suz Training offers running coach and personal training services for all levels of fitness and running goals! From marathoner to bikini competitors, let Coach Suz help you live beyond expectations! Find out more at

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Now it is time to link up with Rachel, Lora, and Debbie for Running Coaches Corner!
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I am also linking up with Patty, Erika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Nicole, Annmarie, Michelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday, and Ilka and Angela for Food and Fitness Sunday.

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  • Reply Michelle @ Fruition Fitness

    Great tips! This was me last year…I was so sad to leave 5ks behind and instead focus on long slow runs! There were some races though that I had to run, so it was a careful balance!

    August 17, 2016 at 5:41 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      That sounds like a good way to do it–a little fun and a little business.

      August 17, 2016 at 5:37 pm
  • Reply Angela @ Happy Fit Mama

    It’s funny that I got my 5k PR while in the midst of marathon training. All the extra miles and speed work helped some I guess! But I also had a couple of 5ks that summer that were at least a minute or two slower just because I was running on really tired legs from training.

    August 17, 2016 at 5:52 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You had amazing running economy, so that is probably why! And the tired legs are just part of the territory

      August 17, 2016 at 5:36 pm
  • Reply Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine

    I like to do some races early in my training. I have actually set half marathon PRs twice while training for a marathon, but I was able to schedule those in so that they didnt completely wipe me out and I still had over 6 weeks until my goal race. I do think its helpful to get used to the racing environment!

    August 17, 2016 at 5:53 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      See, that is critical! And 6 weeks is a good amount of time to be fully recovered for the big race.

      August 17, 2016 at 5:36 pm
  • Reply Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious

    I miss the days of racing. Was looking at my medals the other day wondering if I ever would have one to add to my collection. You can run or jump with joint replacements or you wear them out really fast.

    August 17, 2016 at 6:17 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hey, you never know!

      August 17, 2016 at 5:35 pm
  • Reply Annmarie

    I worked in a half marathon and an 18 mile race last summer and I have to say, it definitely helped with race prep and mental strength for the actual marathon!

    August 17, 2016 at 6:29 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      For certain–you can’t back out!

      August 17, 2016 at 5:35 pm
  • Reply Kimberly Hatting

    Timely advice 😉 I have always tried to balance the “racing” and “training”….I’m curious how we make this play out 😉

    August 17, 2016 at 6:30 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      We are going to get creative, is what is going to happen!

      August 17, 2016 at 5:34 pm
  • Reply Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home

    I’m having huge FOMO over here. It sucks not racing!!!

    August 17, 2016 at 6:50 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I know how much you love it and I’m sad for you!

      August 17, 2016 at 5:34 pm
  • Reply Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner

    I always want to sign up for everything! While I don’t do full marathons, I like to throw in 10k races into half marathon training to keep me from getting bored and help w speed.

    August 17, 2016 at 7:05 am
  • Reply Anna @ Piper's Run

    I’m all for racing during half marathon training. I’ve done it in years past and I just did it on the weekend with great results. Now, playing in another sport (soccer) added some risk to my running which I knew…it’s just a bummer I got injured playing soccer and am sideline for a short period.
    Sometimes have FOMO is the worst!

    August 17, 2016 at 7:21 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I’m so sad for you. I hope you heal so quickly!

      August 17, 2016 at 5:34 pm
  • Reply Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    Such good tips! I get serious FOMO! I haven’t been racing as much as I was, but when I was in the thick of it I found it hard to pass up a race. Tweeted for you!

    August 17, 2016 at 7:22 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you, Julie!

      August 17, 2016 at 5:33 pm
  • Reply Ilka

    I’m not racing as much in Florida as I have been when I was living in NYC – miss it!

    August 17, 2016 at 7:23 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      NYC races are so much fun, and so plentiful. Also, a lot less heat-stroke inducing, usually

      August 17, 2016 at 5:33 pm
  • Reply Laura @ This Runner's Recipes

    Races during marathon are so tricky, but early on in training I think they can help assess fitness, especially if it’s been a while since an athlete raced. I wish I could find a good 10k (but not in the city, I’m so picky) to squeeze in as a time trial before my mileage picks up.

    August 17, 2016 at 7:26 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      For sure–I have all of my clients do time trials at the beginning and then at strategic times to assess fitness!

      August 17, 2016 at 5:32 pm
  • Reply Kimberly G

    I have a few half marathons in September and October that I am using as part of my long runs for marathon training. I have no time goals in mind, and definitely am not looking for a PR, but I thought the races would be a great fun way to break up the agony of a long run lol

    August 17, 2016 at 7:33 am
  • Reply Gretchen

    I love adding a race onto the end of a long run (particularly if I’m supposed to hit certain paces). It helps me a lot mentally and I like having the crowd there to help me along. I know these won’t be PR’s and I won’t push myself like I normally would for a race, which is why I would never pick an expensive or really big race! Finding a small, local race where I can run 10+ miles before then finish with a 5k or 10k, then cooling down to get in my miles is an ideal situation for me.

    August 17, 2016 at 7:38 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Exactly. I’ll be honest, I try to win my entries for races to take care of those problems, lol

      August 17, 2016 at 5:31 pm
  • Reply Jen @ Pretty Little Grub

    Great advice. I definitely think it’s based on individual goals. All the races can be fun but won’t have the same performance as if you focus on a singular goal.

    August 17, 2016 at 8:07 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      When your goal is long term, it can be hard to manage short term excitement!

      August 17, 2016 at 5:31 pm
  • Reply Brie @ Lean, Clean, & Brie

    This is such great advice. I see both sides and I think you look at what you are training for and how you are training, you can see how to balance it for what works best. I love the idea of doing a race as part of a long run — I definitely won’t skip it if I have a race on the schedule that day!

    August 17, 2016 at 8:26 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It is a great way to do it! The best of everything and a medal for your efforts!

      August 17, 2016 at 5:30 pm
  • Reply Emily @ My Healthyish Life

    Race FOMO is real! Maybe just everything is more FOMO-susceptible in the summer? I’ve never done the race/long run combo but it sounds ideal.

    August 17, 2016 at 8:41 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It really is the way to go. We’ll get you back there!

      August 17, 2016 at 5:29 pm
  • Reply Suzy

    I raced that half marathon in the middle of my marathon training which was fine and everything but I was pushing my body too hard overall with all the speed work and tempo runs. It was just a bit too much for me but maybe I push myself too hard; if I was more chill then racing in the middle of a training period would have been just fine!

    August 17, 2016 at 8:42 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Yeah, I don’t think you know how to not race your races. Perhaps if it had just been a tempo in and of itself, and you had an extra week incorporated in there to recover.

      August 17, 2016 at 5:29 pm
  • Reply Sarah @pickyrunner

    I do think racing is a good way to keep the legs fresh and get some speedwork in during marathon training… but not at the expense of an injury. Half marathons are great tune-up races, but 5ks help the leg turnover. It’s all about managing expectations and not necessarily gunning for a huge PR since the end goal is the marathon.

    August 17, 2016 at 9:17 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      For certain. I totally agree with everything you said!

      August 17, 2016 at 5:28 pm
  • Reply Jessica Marie

    My very first race was a Half Marathon and I didn’t even think of running a 5K during the training (I guess I wouldn’t have been able to say that the Half Marathon was my first race then-Ha!). This is the first time I’ve seen the Running Coaches link-up, that’s brilliant!

    August 17, 2016 at 9:28 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I hope you will return to it every Wednesday!

      August 17, 2016 at 5:25 pm
  • Reply Lauren

    Ah FOMO! I totally suffer from this- I do try to plan a half marathon about 2 months out from my marathon and run my long run the day before my half so I can run on tired legs…great post!

    August 17, 2016 at 9:44 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I do the same! That is one of the best ways to mentally and physically prepare!

      August 17, 2016 at 5:25 pm
  • Reply Janelle @ Run With No Regrets

    This is great info! I’m training for my first marathon and there were definitely a lot of races I had to pass on because they are not the priority this fall. I’ve been working with a coach and following her guidance, even though it does bum me out to miss out on a few really fun ones!

    August 17, 2016 at 9:45 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Aw boo, I know it does, but that is what your coach is there for–to keep you happy and healthy through your RACE

      August 17, 2016 at 5:25 pm
  • Reply Debbie @ Coach Debbie Runs

    It’s really about goals and priorities. Another reason to hire a coach who can sort all this stuff out for you.

    August 17, 2016 at 9:56 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You know I agree with that!

      August 17, 2016 at 5:24 pm
  • Reply Sam @ PancakeWarriors

    I can’t imagine running a 10k for fun. Lol. that really why you are aamzing though!

    August 17, 2016 at 10:07 am
  • Reply Nicole @ Fitful Focus

    I love working races into training because it means I can get a medal for my long run ;-P but agree that you shouldn’t push yourself to PR if you haven’t been training at PR pace. Or you can work with an awesome coach to tell you what to do 🙂 🙂

    August 17, 2016 at 10:39 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hahaha I like it! Also, then you don’t have to worry about course support!

      August 17, 2016 at 5:23 pm
  • Reply Alaina @ The Simple Peach

    Great advice per usual! I like racing during a cycle to keep things fresh. I use most of them as training runs and set realistic goals depending on the course. I think you gotta know yourself too. Some folks can’t relax and not race during a race environment, lucky for me I don’t have that problem 😉

    August 17, 2016 at 11:39 am
  • Reply Emily

    I think the biggest thing is running it at a more ‘regular’ pace instead of race pace, however I’ve never really done a race in the middle of marathon training, so I probably shouldn’t give too much opinion. 🙂

    August 17, 2016 at 11:45 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      But I would agree with you!

      August 17, 2016 at 5:22 pm
  • Reply Ange // Cowgirl Runs

    Such great tips!
    It can be really difficult to hold back from going all-out, but if you aren’t used to it, bad things can happen!

    August 17, 2016 at 11:49 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Seriously. And it can beat you up even if you ARE used to it!

      August 17, 2016 at 5:20 pm
  • Reply GiGi Eats

    “Run all the races” – yeah. SO NOT ME. Ha Ha! I am so NOT competitive AT ALL. I used to competitively snowboard but… Even then, I didn’t care if I won or lost, I just did it. I give those who want to RUN ALL THE RACES lots of credit though, but man, I just couldn’t! I will eat ALL the salmon though. ALL. OF. IT.

    August 17, 2016 at 2:27 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      They likely have a medal in that..

      August 17, 2016 at 5:19 pm
  • Reply Rachel

    Ha! I love this post. Because it’s SO TRUE. I had this exact conversation with my coach last week before I raced over the weekend.

    August 17, 2016 at 7:46 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Lol see coaches need coaching!

      August 19, 2016 at 5:07 pm
  • Reply Hannah

    I am kiiinda a cheapskate sometimes, so if I’m on the fence about whether I should race during training, the registration fee usually dissuades me. I’m not really a “just for fun” racer, though.

    August 17, 2016 at 10:27 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I’m a total cheapskate so it is sometimes hard to convince myself to race at all during training!

      August 19, 2016 at 5:07 pm
  • Reply Tricia Vaughn

    Isn’t is such a balancing act? When I signed up for my first marathon I had already signed up for several half’s. It did take some changing and swapping around but for the most part my races fell on weeks I needed in more than 13 miles. Not that I’m a fast runner anyway but I did look at it like I’m here to get my miles done, chat with some friends and get a medal! It all worked out for me! Thanks it’s a great post!

    August 18, 2016 at 9:39 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I mean, how awesome is it to get a medal for something you would be doing anyway?!

      August 19, 2016 at 4:05 pm
  • Reply Running Log Week August 15th

    […] Susie, Rachel and Debbie for The Coaches’ Corner […]

    August 23, 2016 at 11:45 am
  • Reply Angela

    Great post! Thanks for sharing at the Sunday Fitness & food Link-Up, Pinned:-)

    August 27, 2016 at 10:08 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you for hosting!

      August 30, 2016 at 2:39 pm

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