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Running Advice: Run the Race You Trained For (Running Coaches Corner)

As I look back at the past 6 months since the Chicago Marathon, I think the one piece of running advice that I would give would be to run the race you trained for. Join me for Running Coaches’ Corner link up!

Today is the last day of our March Madness theme for Running Coaches Corner, and the last time that we will host the link up on Thursday. That means starting next week, we will be switching to Wednesdays for the Running Coaches Corner link up, and the new theme will be nutrition!

Why You Should Run the Race that You Train For. Don't race beyond the level that your training has prepared you for. Find out why at @suzlyfe for Running Coaches Corner

After spending much of the last month looking at the madness and hysteria of pacing and transitioning to outdoor running, I am stopping the madness with a look at the madness that stopped me: my amazing, but ultimately destructive, Chicago Marathon. 

Running Advice: Run the Race You Trained For

Aka Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should. Particularly with the marathon distance. 

For those of you who are new to my blog (HI), last October, I ran the Chicago Marathon after a summer of coaching runners, rather than training explicitly for myself. Going into the race, my mindset was one where I would have been perfectly happy with a sub 4 marathon, and ecstatic with a 3:45. Wellllll, I ran a 3:29:58. My PR from the Phoenix Marathon earlier in the year is 3:58:30, so yeah, I ended up hauling a$$. 

But my race didn’t start off that way: the first four miles were actually a bit of a beast–on or a little ahead of the pace I was planning on running, but mentally not engaged. Around mile 4, I looked up and saw one of my training buddings (from a previous marathon cycle), and ended up running with her for 12ish miles before realizing that I needed a bathroom break and to pull back a bit. Also, she was running MUCH faster than I, but a pace that was my previous race pace, so I was still rather comfortable with that speed. 

Coach Susie running with pace group during Chicago Endurance Sports 20 miler at the end of Marathon Training!

Pace group for the 20 miler with CES

During my training cycle, I had run more miles than just about any other training cycle, and even did so coming off of a stress reaction in my tibia following a speed session in unsupportive shoes (another lesson, to be sure). The majority of my miles throughout the summer had been way behind what had been my “typical” pace, but I would run my mid week miles a bit quicker, at about what had been my quite comfortable pace previously. 

This race proved to me that you can keep and even gain speed while doing the majority of your runs at an easier pace, but it also taught me that you still have to prep your body for the rigors of running at said faster paces FOR 26.2 MILES.

please forgive me puss in boots cat meme

My body was quite able to handle the 6-8 miles that I did around that pace a few times a week during training. However, the extra rotation of my pelvis necessary to length my stride and achieve that pace, and even greater, repeated pelvic rotation for 12 miles and then lesser, but still greater than the degree experienced during training, rotation during the remaining miles resulted in a sacral stress fracture.  Stress fractures do not necessarily build up over time: the two stress related injuries I’ve had occurred in isolated incidences.

I’ve spoken on dealing with my injury quite a bit (though if you have questions, feel free to ask or email me!), so today I want to talk about what running advice I would give to you all and the lessons that I have learned from what happened:

Run the Race You’ve Trained For. Particularly at the Marathon Distance.

Running Advice: Don’t Race Beyond the Level You Have Trained For

Had I run the 3:45-4:00 marathon that I planned on, I would have been totally fine. I would be running the Boston Marathon in 3 weeks with so many of my friends. I wouldn’t have missed out on the past 5 months of running. I would have missed out the past 5 months of doctors, pain, and panic. Of course, I learned a great deal of positive lessons from my injury, and I am at peace with what happened, but it doesn’t make holding that Boston Marathon packet, or sitting out training and coaching seasons, any easier. 

Thus the inordinate amount of Netflix.

Thus the inordinate amount of Netflix.

There are going to be times that you train for a race and the day off are unable to perform at that level. That is different, and absolutely honor your body’s needs. And if you are having a good day, I am not going to tell you not to feel the magic and go for it. But race at a level above your training at your own risk. 

You can PR. But SHOULD you? #running advice you need to hear #coachescorner #runchat Click To Tweet

Think about the next race, and whether or not it is worth missing because you were too impatient or wrapped in the moment to wait another few weeks or month, and potentially have an even better race then. 

Have you ever overraced a race?

What is a piece of running advice that never occurred to you in such a way until you learned the hard way?

Thank you for joining Debbie, Lora, Rachel and myself for Running Coaches Corner! Don’t forget, next week we are on Wednesday and will start covering nutrition!

Link up with #running Coaches Corner! @coachdebbieruns @running_onhappy @loramarie03 Click To Tweet

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  • Reply Michele @ paleorunningmomma

    I don’t think I ever over raced a race based on training but based on conditions, yes. When it’s unexpectedly warm and you still want to stick with the planned time, I’m not great with that even though I know I’m bad with even slight heat.

    March 31, 2016 at 5:57 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Ooo, yeah, heat can really level you.

      April 2, 2016 at 12:10 pm
  • Reply Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine

    For a long time I struggled with running the appropriate pace during a race (sometimes I still do). I would go out either too slow or too fast. Its one thing to go out too fast in a 5k, but totally different to do that in a marathon. I trained for a 4 hour marathon when I did Baltimore in 2013 and went out way too fast (8:20-8:30ish pace). There is a significant portion that is downhill in the beginning and I got carried away. I hit the wall hard at mile 15 and had to slow down a lot and walk quite a bit to finish. I’ve never successfully run an entire race faster than what I trained for, but I would imagine the recovery time would be long, and there is huge increase in injury risk.

    March 31, 2016 at 6:00 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I wish I knew then what I know now! Damn you, hindsight!

      April 2, 2016 at 12:09 pm
  • Reply Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious

    Wow! Impressive that you’ve been able to tie your stress fractures back to your pace. How did you figure that out?

    March 31, 2016 at 6:17 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I’ve had a lot of time to think, lol.

      April 2, 2016 at 12:09 pm
  • Reply Christine @ Two Runners Travel

    Interesting post. I’ve never really thought about over-racing a race. Especially a marathon! It kind of makes me wonder if you didn’t know you were capable of a 3:30-ish time during training and thus your training paces were so disparate from race pace. Marathon training is so hard and I think it’s easy to miss on training and race paces and goals…I have! But then again I didn’t train with a coach. 🙂 So there’s that. Definitely a really thought-provoking post!

    March 31, 2016 at 6:36 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I knew I was capable, but I wasn’t intending to run that hard. I was training for a victory lap, and then went against my plan the day of. Wish I had stuck to the plan!

      April 2, 2016 at 12:08 pm
  • Reply EB @ Running on E

    The marathon distance is the most dangerous (in my opinion) for over racing. It takes such a toll on the body. That said, I also think races with a lot of elevation change can be really hard on the body if you haven’t prepped well for it. The hardest running lesson I’ve had to learn is the importance of recovery time. Just because you feel ok to run, doesn’t mean you should.

    March 31, 2016 at 7:14 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      That is a fabulous point. Sometimes, you just need to lay down rules and stick to them, even if you “feel” you are ok.

      April 2, 2016 at 12:07 pm
  • Reply Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    What a hard lesson :-(((
    I am not a gifted runner in any way shape or form so I’ve never been able to pull a faster time than expected. But I’ve tried! haha!

    March 31, 2016 at 7:18 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hahaha. But it can happen to anyone!

      April 2, 2016 at 12:06 pm
  • Reply Debbie @ Coach Debbie Runs

    It really can be difficult to start off a race, feeling great, and not let yourself just go for it. I used to laugh at myself, knowing in my head I had trained for a 3:30 or whatever, then starting the race and suddenly feeling like a PR was in the cards. Such races don’t usually end with a PR. For me they usually would end with a blow up by mile 20. I’m sorry you had to learn the hard way with your stress fracture. Our bodies have a way of getting back at us for taking them for granted. 🙂

    March 31, 2016 at 7:33 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And even when you don’t know that you are taking them for granted, I guess!

      April 2, 2016 at 12:06 pm
  • Reply Lesley

    I’m probably facing this for my 10 in May. I’ve trained up to 4 miles, but I have to pull back right now with PT. I hope to build up strength enough for them to give me the OK to start building again. My ceiling is 3 miles before my stability goes, so I’m coming up with a backup plan for the 10k.

    March 31, 2016 at 7:55 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I definitely agree. I would talk to a coach to help you come up with another strategy!

      April 2, 2016 at 12:05 pm
  • Reply Ellie

    Last year I had the half marathon race of my life, and would have been fine if I had recovered enough afterwards. I was trained enough but it was supposed to be a training run for my marathon, which I ended up having to skip because I got a pelvic injury. Stupid Ellie! Not this year!

    March 31, 2016 at 8:13 am
  • Reply Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner

    years ago my trainer said “you have to run your own race” I did not quite get it at first. I’ve gotten caught up in adrenaline and started way too fast only to have to walk later on in the race. I’ve also started and been too conservative and finished knowing I had more to give. It’s a hard balance sometimes!

    March 31, 2016 at 8:14 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I think Shalane Flanagan could take some of those pointers, too!

      April 2, 2016 at 12:04 pm
  • Reply Suzy

    K, you know what? This makes a lot of sense to me. There is such a fine line between pushing our body to improve and pushing it too far. I’ve never done it during a race, but I think I’ve been pushing too hard lately with all my speed work and tempo runs. My knee is janky and my hamstrings are so tight that I can’t bend over to put my socks on. HA! Good reminder for me today, thank you.

    March 31, 2016 at 9:07 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Always here when you need a nudge. Good luck with the shoes. Get some slip ons 😀

      April 2, 2016 at 12:03 pm
  • Reply Laura @ This Runner's Recipes

    This is why I can’t do tune up races – fear of pushing myself too hard when it’s not the time, but a race brings out my competitive side so I know to do them only when I can give it my all. The marathon especially is easy to over-race. It was so disappointing to have to pull back in the Portland Marathon and finish slower than I had trained for, but it was worth it not to over exert myself during such a demanding distance. There will always be other races!

    March 31, 2016 at 9:14 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You were so smart at the marathon. I wish I had been as smart!

      April 2, 2016 at 12:03 pm
  • Reply Eric Nette

    I overraced my last HM, because I misremembered what pace I was aiming for. I wanted to PR, but I messed up the time. I was coming off of an injury so I didn’t expect much of myself. I ended up cramping pretty badly later that night, but not worse than my dehydration spell a few weeks ago.
    The lesson I learned the most by continuously pushing my body into exhaustion, is rest days are sacred. I heard it a million times, but I figured if I was going to start racing such a big race I needed to double my effort. I did but after 2 months of pushing it I started to feel the exhaustion in every facet of life. Backing off a little at times helped get me to still peak, still feel like the wheels are coming off, but I ended up finishing much stronger than if I burnt myself out.

    March 31, 2016 at 10:07 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You have learned so much in such a short time of long distance running, and you are going to have an amazing marathon!

      April 2, 2016 at 12:02 pm
  • Reply Courtney @ Running For Cupcakes

    I thought I was invincible to injury until last October when I learned the hard way. I definitely didn’t push myself during my last marathon, but that is because I was going on vacation the next day and I didn’t want to be sore the whole time. Sometimes there’s more important things in life than hitting a goal time!

    March 31, 2016 at 12:27 pm
  • Reply Ange @ Cowgirl Runs

    I know I’ve definitely got caught up in racing when I shouldn’t be racing.
    I’m going to need to consciously remind myself to take it easy when I run my half in May since all of my miles will have been at an easy pace. No PR hopes here!

    March 31, 2016 at 12:43 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It is so easy to get caught up in it, though!

      April 2, 2016 at 12:01 pm
  • Reply Julie

    There are days when I feel so good I keep going farther than I should considering other things that I have to do so I end up more tired than is good. I love running and it helps me so much with my anxiety that sometimes I do not rest. I am getting better!!

    March 31, 2016 at 12:52 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It can be hard to run as we know that we should rather than running by feel!

      April 2, 2016 at 12:00 pm
  • Reply Rachel

    Very well said. You’ll be racing 3:30 marathons again soon.

    March 31, 2016 at 12:53 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      We’ll see. And if not? Oh well!

      April 2, 2016 at 12:00 pm
  • Reply Erin @ Erin's Inside Job

    That was a seriously impressive pace girl. I can relate to this as well since I pushed it on my sprints and caused my knee to be not so happy with me. I’ve gotten better about backing off, but this last time I overestimated my knee. Boo.

    March 31, 2016 at 1:17 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Idiot bodies. Keep up.

      April 2, 2016 at 11:59 am
  • Reply Kim Hatting

    I love your wisdom and your articulate way of sharing it 😉 I had a similar epiphany last summer. I had a marathon coming up, PF aflare and several races right before the marathon. I took a solid week off, and eased back. I ran two of my races (a 10K trail and a 10K street race), but decided to DNS the 13.1 (the next day). I probably could have gritted it out and done alright…but at what price? I said the exact thing as you did…just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD. My ego took a knock, but I was able to run my marathon pain-free, and FINISH (PF be dammed).k

    March 31, 2016 at 1:35 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      PF AND Ego be damned, right?

      April 2, 2016 at 11:58 am
  • Reply Helly

    Marathons are so hard to gauge what pace is comfortable–for me anyway. I feel like I’ve ran all of them at a pace at my level but still struggle (nutrition has been my issue but that’s another long post). I’m hoping to have a good marathon this next go-around

    March 31, 2016 at 4:00 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I am sure that you will.

      April 2, 2016 at 11:57 am
  • Reply Crystal Renaud

    Great read! Not every race has to be a PR. It is hard not to want it though. A good reminder to be sure we keep ourselves in check and not push beyond what we should!

    March 31, 2016 at 4:34 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Perhaps the hardest lesson of all!

      April 2, 2016 at 11:57 am
  • Reply Sami

    Do you have any posts about your recovery/comeback plan after your tibial stress reaction?!? That’s exactly what I’m in the midst of recovering from right now and I’d love any insight!

    March 31, 2016 at 5:51 pm
  • Reply Olena @ candiesandcrunches

    Awesome as always, Suz! I honestly haven’t raced in so long…. SOON! xoxo

    March 31, 2016 at 7:31 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Ooooo, That is exciting!

      April 2, 2016 at 11:54 am
  • Reply lacey@fairytalesandfitness

    While training, most of my mileage is at easy pace but come race day I always seem to pick up my pace. But I don’t think I would be able to maintain a faster pace that I am not used to for a long period of time. I will have to remember that during my next long race. I would hate for that to be a reason to get an injury like the one you have talked about. I never thought of it that way, but you make a good point.

    March 31, 2016 at 9:47 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Yeah, it just honestly isn’t worth the injury risk!

      April 2, 2016 at 11:53 am
  • Reply Kerri Mcgrail

    Hm, very interesting perspective on over-racing! I don’t think I have really “over-raced” but I used to start off with the lead pack in virtually every race during my high school/ undergrad running career and always die by the end. Now I think I have finally gotten the negative split down! Hardest lesson to learn- DO NOT run on injuries! enough said.

    March 31, 2016 at 9:55 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Truth. Preach. YES.

      April 2, 2016 at 11:53 am
  • Reply Kristen

    This is so interesting! I’m so glad you were able to figure out what caused it and try to avoid doing it in the future. I am the slowest racer ever so I’ve never had this happen to me, but I think this definitely applies to post-injury runs as well!

    March 31, 2016 at 11:29 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You know I agree on this!

      April 2, 2016 at 11:52 am
  • Reply Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy

    Sadly I won’t be able to run any of the races that I trained for this year. It’s a hard pill to swallow, as I really wanted this year to be my year of races. But, oh well 🙂

    April 1, 2016 at 4:17 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I hope for an ultimately positive reason?

      April 2, 2016 at 11:52 am
  • Reply Don

    Hey Susie! We ran the same race, had very different results, but ultimately came to the same conclusions:


    April 1, 2016 at 4:44 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      We are totally kindred spirits.

      April 2, 2016 at 11:51 am
  • Reply Favorite links 4/3 - Prepare For Adventure

    […] Run the race you trained for. […]

    April 3, 2016 at 1:13 pm
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