Racing enough or too much?

I don’t think I raced enough in 2012. According to the Power Of 10 website, I had 10 races in 2012 where my results were fast enough to be included in their listings. Amongst those, I had a couple of really good races – two 74 minute half marathons, one in Wokingham and one in Cambridge. And obviously a marathon PB in London in April. On top of that, there were two ultra marathons, both over 45 miles, which I ran with my wife.

Running the London Marathon 2012 and loving it!

That is not a terrible haul of medals and I really enjoyed the races that I did do, but I don’t feel that I pulled on my club vest and went and raced people often enough. If I compare myself with a random selection of my friends I am even more disappointed:

  • One raced 41 times! With 5 half marathons and seven 10km races as well as a marathon to his name in 2012
  • Another raced 33 times including 5 half marathons, 2 marathons and four 10kms this year
  • A third (who has done amazingly to return from injury after more than a year off) managed 15 races in the last 12 months
  • Yet another completed 25 races in 2012 including 3 half marathons and three 10kms as well as a host of 5km races

… and these are only the races that are fast enough to appear on the Power Of 10 website!

Coach says what…?

In the latest issue of Men’s Running, my coach, Nick Anderson from runningwithus, deals with a question from a reader about how much someone should race. Nick’s response is interesting and cuts to the real issue for me: he wants the runner to ask “why do I race?” or “what is my next big goal?” He then goes on to advise that every runner should have a goal for the coming months and

… start to think about using other races to bring you into top shape or gain experience

I think that this is a very valid and interesting point and obviously since I have been trained by Nick, this is the approach that we have taken. I also think that there is a psychological benefit to racing that cannot be overlooked. In some cases I know that people are nervous about racing and my friend Nathan Pennington (check out his website here) recently posted a quote that I think is very apt:

I think the fear of losing trumps the excitement of victory for so many people – Gary Vaynerchuk

What is the point of racing for me?

But for me, racing is the point of running. I love testing myself and I love seeing improvement.

I also think that regular racing gives one the opportunity to iron-out any bumps in your running record. What I mean by this, is that if you have regular races in the diary and one does not go to plan, it is not the end of the world. There is an opportunity for redemption just around the corner.

Now obviously common sense has to be applied. There are very few people who are going to be able to run a PB marathon week after week after week. Eventually the lack of recovery will come and bite you in the bum. But I have a feeling that there is space for more races in my diary.

I think that I would enjoy having more targets to aim for. I love racing the person in front (or indeed on the very rare occasion that I am in front, the people behind!) and I can always find something to aim for – a half marathon at marathon target pace feeling really good at the finish line: a top three finish in my age group: not being chicked: beating all the Serpies in the race: another sub-75 minute half marathon. The list goes on and on, so there will not be a lack of motivation.

I also think that there are distances that I can indulge my passion for a personal best at. I have not run a 10km race for at least two years and my PB currently stands at 35min 39sec. My most recent half marathon was run at almost exactly 36 minute 10km pace and it felt very easy indeed, so I think that a PB is there for the taking. The same goes for my 20 mile PB which is two years old now.

What is my big goal?

I am not entirely sure about the big goal. The obvious answer is that I want a new marathon personal best. I am really happy with my time from the London marathon this year, but I finished knowing that I can go faster. The problem is that having just launched a new enterprise (please check out if you haven’t already) I am struggling to see a clear period when I can train consistently for a marathon. At the moment I am really enjoying running but it is all too easy for the work that I am doing – and absolutely loving – to make going for a long run feel like something that I should do rather than something I want to do. That is when marathon training becomes a chore. So for now I am going to say that I would like to see if I can race a marathon in the autumn, after a lovely summer of training when the evenings are longer and the weather is warmer.

What now?

I think that the next step then is to identify some races that I would like to do and book ’em. The Bath half marathon looks good and I have never done that race. There is also the Reading Half which is one of my favourite races (filling fast I believe). Then there is the Mornington Chasers Regents Park 10km race on 6 January or the Bromley 10km race on 13 January. The list is massive. This is where you come in, my friendly runner…

Where would you advise me to race? What have you found to be the best courses and where am I going to be the most likely to slake my thirst for a race and perhaps a PB? Let me know and maybe I’ll see you there…?


  1. Simon,

    Loved reading your thoughts on quantity of races. I am at the other extreme to you having run or aquathoned my way through well over 50 (excluding parkruns which I don’t often ‘race’) in 2012 – from 400 metres to a marathon.

    Why? I enjoy the buzz of racing but it’s more complicated than that. Aside from my first marathon most of my subsequent pbs have been achieved on courses and at races where I have been familiar with the surroundings, where I feel safe and also where I have ‘space’ to run. Most simply, I guess where I can really concentrate on my running and be the best I can be at that moment. Races that I do regularly, like the Last Friday in the Month 5K and the Sri Chinmoy in Battersea Park, I work out one or two that I really want to ‘go for’ and use the others in the series to help build to those goals. I also have a few key races in the year that I really want to do well in.

    I had thought I may need to start aiming for season bests rather than pbs but this year has proved to me that I still have much improvement to make (I managed 6 new pbs in 2012 including 30 seconds off my 5 miles) and new goals to go for in 2013. There are some fantastic athletes in my age group which also spurs me on and also the fact that I can still run! I find it all incredibly inspiring.

    In terms of recommending races for you – possibly a little on the short side, but the Last Friday 5K in Hyde Park provides a good race sharpener and equally the 5K Sri Chinmoy on Monday nights through the summer (also 2 miles and 1 mile relay). You can check out the results for both these events and see the standard of competition.

    For 10K, the Middlesex race in Victoria Park usually September is great and there are different coloured medals both individual and team. It would be fantastic if we could get a Chasers team for that. Serpentine and Highgate Harriers usually have their top runners at this event.

    Hope that helps and all the best with your running in 2013!

  2. Great view Simon…. I actually think its a tough decision to make and a pretty good argument on both sides? Compete more often and eventually times may suffer or compete less and be able to give 100% every time? Racing is a challenge and what better way to compare you to others as the results wont lie. For me personally I do agree wanting to race to see improvements in my running times and with this as an incentive i still have it in me to enjoy my race even more, especially to see my PB’s coming down, After weeks of training then yes! a race result could/should be a faster time and result in a PB. I thoroughly enjoy this part of my racing

    Through my experience too much racing caused me injuries in particular Achilles Tendonits so from this recovery was slow! and hindered my next races so i do air a side of caution when it comes to entering too many races without sufficient rest in between. Which still niggles me and makes me regret! Just why didn’t i start this running malarky at a much younger age??

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