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  • Writer's pictureJames Diamond

Training Tips: Incorporating Shorter Races Into Your Marathon Training

As athletes, we often develop tunnel vision as we chase our goals. This is especially true for marathon runners. The marathon is an event that takes dedication and focus, but that focus doesn’t need to be so tight that your other running goals need to be put on hold.



Why should you run shorter races during a marathon build?

There are a few reasons you should consider running shorter races over the course of your marathon training: measure your progress, increase fitness, increase your racing IQ, and finalize your race prep routine.


Measure Your Progress

A runner’s 1 mile time correlates to their 5k time, their 5k time correlates with their half marathon, and their half marathon correlates with their marathon. For beginner marathoners especially there’s value in racing a few 5k’s over the course of training. These races will help you finalize your marathon race strategy, as you start to get a more accurate view of your fitness the closer you get to race day. Someone who’s raced multiple 5k’s will have a much more accurate view of their fitness then someone who hasn’t raced in months.


Increase Fitness

Racing shorter distances is an effective way to increase your fitness and “speed reserves.” If two athletes are trying to run 10:00/ pace for the marathon, but one athlete has run several 5k’s at 8:30/ pace and the other athlete has averaged 9:00/ pace for the 5k, then the first athlete is going to have a better chance of hitting their marathon goal. Everytime you race you push your body to a new limit. Elevating those limits at shorter race distances can pay a dividend towards improving your marathon.


Improved Race IQ

Really good marathon runners have a really strong racing IQ. They have a strong understanding of how their body responds under stress, where their breaking point is, and when they need to make adjustments to their race plan. You do not want to discover your breaking point during the marathon. It’s much better to test those limits at the 5k-Half Marathon distances. Since these are much shorter distances, it is easier to recover physically and mentally from these races and take learned lessons into future races.


Finalize Your Race Prep Routine

What will you eat the morning of the marathon? What shorts will you wear? What shoes? What will your warm up be? How will you prevent chafing? A lot of people are only able to answer those questions the week of the marathon. However, these are all things you can test by running short races over the course of your training. If your breakfast gives you stomach issues during a 10k race, then you know you need to make adjustments for the marathon.


How to implement these races into training?

If you're inserting races into an already established plan, you’ll likely need to make a few adjustments to account for recovery. For CARA runners, you can always reach out to us at training@cararuns.org to go over what sort of adjustments you should consider making.


The longer the race the more adjustments you will need to make. For athletes racing 1 Mile- 5,000m, cutting back the volume on your run the next day or turning a tempo run into an easy run might be all you need. For runners racing the 10k-Half marathon, you might need to take an extra rest day and cut back the volume of your track sessions.


Below is a list of race distances and how far out you can schedule them from the marathon without having to worry about it negatively affecting your marathon race:


1 Mile- 8-14 days prior to the marathon

5k- 14 days prior to the marathon

10k- 21 days prior to the marathon

13.1- 6-8 weeks prior to the marathon


While it is ok to focus solely on the marathon, running shorter races along the way can serve a valuable purpose for you to grow as a runner and racer. The advantages you gain in knowledge, fitness, and feedback are incredibly valuable. By strategically inserting shorter races into your training you’ll be able to grow faster as a runner and give yourself a better chance of achieving your goals.


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