How to plan a race season in 2021

So we are here again… Will we be running races at all in 2021? While I think the answer is probably yes at least we all know we’ll live if we have to go one more year race free. If you’re feeling bad for yourself this year keep in mind that really bigger, more important things are happening. Okay got that disclaimer out of the way I really, really want to make up for last year and maybe even crush my first marathon this year! If I don’t get to I’ll live but I don’t want the pandemic to keep me away from running again like it did last year. It’s important to factor other aspects of your life. So that’s how were going to get started today what’s hopefully happening in my life this year and it’s a doozy. But… you’ll get those concrete tips you’re looking for too at the end. These are all the factors I’m considering and how I’m thinking about planning my 2021 race season.

My year outlook

Apparently my parents used to sit down on new year’s and plan their goals for the next year. Financially, as a couple and as a family. It sounds like a great idea! We don’t usually do that but we did this year. Now a lot of things have to fall into line and the first itty bitty little steps are happening but… We hope to sell our house, buy some land, move into a rental and then build our own house together in record time. That’s not as crazy as it sounds though because the building method we’re looking at is crazy fast, we can and have lived in a construction zone and we do just that for a living. Realistically once we’re in and comfortable enough, we’ll probably finish our place on the weekends.

For me personally I’d like to do at least as much gardening as I did last year. Roughly keep to my posting schedule on here and if the year allows run my first marathon at the end of October. So how is all that possible, well I’m not totally sure that it is. There’s a good chance I might be running a slow half or two as well. If one thing goes off the rails I’m not so sure that my marathon will happen. When I have longer runs scheduled I’ll have a few options for getting them done. One is taking a break when I’m not totally needed during the day, before gardening or skipping the side hustle some nights. What makes this possible is that once we sell there will be a decent financial cushion this year. So far we’ve finished the outside of our house, I’m into the process of decluttering and we have a good idea where we might be going and a line on a few rentals.

Start with building a good base

Kind of the only thing we should be thinking about right now is running enough to support what might happen in the late summer or fall. If you have big goals like a half, full or god help you an ultra the only thing you can do for sure right now is run enough now that you should stay injury free if your bigger plans do come to fruition. For the moment depending on the weather and covid restrictions that might be once a week. Twice a week as you get closer is a minimum 5 months out and three times a week four months out. A consistent weekly milage above 20 km a week has been shown to be a sweet spot for preventing injuries.

Find some motivation outside races

This year might not start off with much more certainty than last year. That means that we won’t be training for a date on the calendar at least for the first section of the year. To keep going through this period I suggest you find some motivation outside racing. You might find this free printable helpful with that. Your motivation might come from the physical or mental health benefits, the mood boosting that comes with it or you know alone time outside the house which is something special these days!

Come up with a maintenance plan that will work for your plan

The chances are that late spring and early summer we’ll be in a holding pattern where the races we’re training for later in the year aren’t for sure yet. If you hope to do as many 5k’s as you can this year your holding pattern might be just three short runs a week. If you’re targeting your first marathon though you might want to get to a place where you’re running 3 or 4 days a week and covering about 35 km doing so. If you’re still confused about what this means it could just be week one of whatever training plan you hope to tackle later in the season. Then just keep repeating that.

Plan a slow build to manage expectations

This probably isn’t the year where we will get to make multiple attempts at that PR. Which means there really isn’t a reason to be race ready in the spring this year. Obviously this has some drawbacks but there are some advantages too. In 2021 there is pretty much no good reason to follow a very condensed training plan we really have all the time in the world for one hell of a slow build! The silver lining is that these slow build type plans keep us motivated and focused longer and help us prevent injury. Stay tuned and subscribe for an upcoming post on how to draw out a training plan you already have over a longer period of time.

Use virtual races to keep on track

I think we all decided that last year was the year to finally try a virtual race right? Plus a lot of us opted to do our favorites as a virtual option because we literally had no other choice. A lot of people used the virtual race option really seriously to accomplish some great big goals last year while I struggled to treat them even casually. If you think that having some virtual events along the way will help keep you focused the good news is you’ve never had more options for virtual events than you do now!

Avoid races with travel

This isn’t so much running related as it is wallet related. This year probably isn’t the year to actually plan to complete those dream races that require you to travel. At this point getting from place to place isn’t guaranteed or even responsible. There’s a good chance you won’t be able to go on the day, you might not get a refund and you’ll be disappointed. Since we should all be thinking this might not actually happen it’s prudent to only plan for races that keep you close to home this season.

Register early for fall races

Right now we’re all thinking the exact same thing and that is, “well maybe by the fall…” To be fair I do think that’s the only conclusion to come to these days. But that means fall races are going to fill up moments after registration opens if they’re popular. There’s also a good chance that they will have to be smaller this year than they have been in years past too. Register early to make sure you get a spot.

This year there are certainly a lot of questions remaining about this race season. I choose to be hopeful that vaccines will be able to save at least the tail end. But… we also know (from last year) that we will all be okay if there’s no racing this year either. Last year taught us all that there is way more to running than just races so if it doesn’t happen that’s okay too. What are you planning this race season? Will you be incorporating any of these tips into your 2021 plan? Leave it in the comments below!

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