Begin with the end in mind- Prioritizing Training and Racing

By: Matt Young

Let’s do a little fill in the blank exercise.

  •           “ I would really like to perform well in (name a race here) this year.”

Can you narrow that down to just one race?  Try it one more time. 

  •           “Next, I would really like to perform well in (name another race) this year.”

Or, did your fill in the blank look more like this, “I would really like to perform well in (every race on every weekend and in every year)?  If that’s the case you may be a chronic racer in need of some help setting priorities.

If you were able to name two races those are most likely your first and second priorities for the year.

Racing is fun, no doubt about that.  And with the growth in the fundraiser 5k it’s very easy to find multiple races each weekend just about every week of the year.  But just because you can race doesn’t mean you should race, especially at an all out effort.  Many runners have a syndrome called FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) which can drive them to do too much, too often and the result is often burnout and injury.

For the past several years I’ve started each year knowing my number one priority race for the season.  That means while I might participate in multiple events I always have one that takes precedence over the others.  That allows me to prioritize the rest of my training and races to lead up to that one event.  And in order to prepare for it I mark that date on the calendar and then I work my training program backwards so I’ll know the ideal schedule to follow to get me to the end.  What I don’t do is pick a date to start training without a target race in mind and then see where it randomly leads me.

This approach will do two things for any runner. First, it keeps you focused on the end goal so you know why you’re doing each and every training session. 

Second, it keeps you from getting distracted with other events and races that may come in between.  There are many times I’ll run a race as a training session more than a race.  If I ran every race as hard as I can I’d most likely break down my body to a point that I won’t be primed for my number one priority race.   It also reminds you that each and every scheduled work out is important.  Each workout contributes to your end goal of completing your number 1 priority race. 

As you consider your priority race you can and should, consider using some races as part of your training. For instance, 5ks make nice tempo runs or speed work for a half marathon.  Half marathons make nice pace runs for marathons.  And trail races are great for a change of pace and for building leg strength, lateral stability, and endurance for your longer events. 

To perform your best in your number one priority race, be deliberate in your training and racing. Allow yourself to run an event as a trainer instead of an all out race. Or consider participating in the race by volunteering.  Do your run before and/or after and then take some time to give back to the community that you love.

So as you look at your training and race calendar are you beginning with the end in mind?  Can you see a clear path to your goal race of the next six months or one year.  If you’re training now without specific race goals you will most likely find compromises along the way that will keep you from getting to the end and performing your best on race day.

So with each week and each workout press on to reach the end of your goal race and begin with the end in mind. 

Matt Young is the head coach of Genesis Running and loves to help people run their first 5k. Learn more about the next class at

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