How to Run Back to Back Races

There is something very wrong with me. It’s not something you can diagnose over the internet so I’ll ask you to leave your speculations to the professionals.

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Anyway.

I am running a lot of races coming up – too many if I’m being honest. But I took the whole ‘run from your troubles’ idea literally and here I am signed up with miles and miles ahead of me.

All the races except one are out of state. Add in travel and it’s thousands of miles back and forth across the county! I’m more stressed about the travel and logistics than anything else right now. But that’s too complicated to discuss now.

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Anyway. Back to back races…

I have already run over 14 races this year. Some of them were very close together.

The smart rule of running races is “Take an easy day for every mile of the race you ran.”

If you ran a half marathon = 13 days of easy workouts / runs

full marathon = 26 days of easy workouts / runs

But that isn’t possible if you are trying to run races close together. Also, that rule kind of assumes you really pushed it at the race. There is a difference between Completing a distance and RACING that distance.

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I raced the Santa Rosa Marathon. As in, I did the best I could on the day. I pushed myself. And I felt it the next days and weeks. After that race I should have taken a few weeks easy. I definitely needed more rest and recovery time and since I didn’t it took a lot longer to recover. Not cool Monican.

I ran the RnR San Francisco half marathon, but I didn’t race it. So I didn’t need as much of a recovery time.

*Note: Either way I always take a day of complete rest after a race.

You can help your body recover quicker from a race by doing some key things:

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Steps to Recover from a Race

1. ICE. I definitely feel a difference when I ice after a race versus when I don’t. There have been conflicting reports on whether this is scientifically proven, but I feel a difference for sure! One of my goals for all of these races – ICE after EVERY half or full for this series.

2. Rest. The remainder of race day I’m going to try and take it easy. And I’ll take a rest day from running the next day and do yoga or foam roll.

3. Eat Healthy. I want to focus on eating a healthy meal after each race. I am always tempted to eat a ton of crap but given all the travel and miles I should focus on nutrients and giving my body healthy food. Also, I plan on taking Vitamin C like Lance Armstrong takes his ‘helpful pills’.

4. Sleep. This is when your body recharges and heals. It’s hard to get enough sleep with a 3 hour time change, but I am going to make it a priority. So, if you see me sleeping on a park bench please cover me with a blanket and let me rest.

5. Massage. I need a massage situation after at least one of these races. TBD.

6. DON’T STRESS!!!!! Enjoy the race. Choose your goal with the other race in mind (how tired will you be, will you have time to recover, is it smart to push it?). Hey, I’m not going to win any of these races.

My race goals are my own and since there are so many back to back I’m not going for a PR. I want to remember this whirlwind year and every single race. I want to have fun! And it’s going to be hard on my body. Getting through it is enough without added time pressure.

I am posting this because these are the things I want to commit to doing after each of my up coming races.

Question: Have you ever done back to back races? Have tips to share?

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Comments

  1. says

    Yes! I especially love 4 and 6. I run a lot of races, but I don’t race all of them. I save my race energy and race mindset for the races where I want to PR (only a couple races throughout the year). Having fun and not stressing is always a great idea!

  2. says

    I did a half marathon and then a 10k 6 days later. I took some full rest days and an easy run 2 days of that week. I felt rested and raced the 10k just fine. I usually like to space my races out so I have more to look forward to throughout the year!

  3. says

    Having just completed back to back half marathons for 5 days straight (in 5 different states) I can say this:
    1. pre-planning and being clear about race day logistics are key! There were 5 of us traveling together. One was the “cooler” guy. He made sure we traveled with a cooler full of water and gatorade. Another was the GPS girl making sure we had directions to each race and printed mapquest direction backup too. We figured out as many of the details as possible ahead of time and kept a written doc “bible”.
    2. You’ve already said this in your post….don’t shoot to PR when you are doing so many races in a short amount of time. You’ll be surprised when you take that out of the equation you find new joys of road races you might have missed on other events where you were so focused on splits. I learned this on my day 3 half in Wyoming. I cried halfway through when I just took a moment to realize how running has taken me to some beautiful places in the country I might never have decided to go.
    3. Know that you WILL complete all your races and everything WILL work out the way they will. Anxiety about it won’t help. And when the marathon of marathons comes to a close and you feel that post-race depression set in you can snap out of it when you realize what you and your amazing runner legs just completed.
    4.traveling and time changes can really take a toll on you. be kind to yourself. Since the NYC Marathon starts so much later than most marathons your california time will actually be a big help (although reminder that we turn our clocks back an hour the night before so i think everyone gets a bit off with that)
    5. just pray to the watermelon gods when all else fails. =)

  4. says

    I don’t normally run back to back races, but I ran the Portland Marathon on Sunday as a training run for the NYC marathon. I ran it at a much slower pace but was surprised at how sore I was yesterday and today. I will run easy tomorrow.

  5. says

    I have never run back to back races but every October my husband runs the Chicago Marathon and then 1 week later runs Marine Corps. He has to pay very close attention to his nutrition and make sure he gets lots of rest!

  6. says

    I’m not sure what I’d advice I would give anyone but I’m sure I’ll know in 8 weeks after I’ve completed the 6 races on my calendar….Good luck to you, I’m sure you’ll do awesome at every race.

  7. Adam says

    I ran a 10k & a 15k within a week of each other last spring – but I can’t remember much of what I did to rest. Anyway, I travel a lot for work and try to eat healthy. I think on long travel days, just getting out & getting to a gym or a short run is key, even if it’s just a few minutes on the bike at your hotel. Do something active to counter all the sitting you are doing. Yoga or Pilates videos are good, too.

    As for eating – very hard! I drive a lot, so I try to take a cooler with pre-made salads (that I make from farmer’s market) and fruits that can stay for a while. Plus, other ingredients that I know I might want. Last trip, I made a pico and put it in dime jars, great for salad topping & good way to keep veggies longer.You never know what you ate going to get when traveling – gas stations & airports are terrible for food choices. If you have to raid the breakfast buffet at your hotel for a decent lunch option for later -do it! I find that some days, when I let myself indulge in eating junk food, I feel like junk later!

    Good luck!

  8. says

    I have 4 races coming up in the next month and a half or so, maybe more (5 if you include the marathon I did a week and a half ago). I’m waiting to see how my body handles it before signing up for a couple more that I want to do. Good luck with your races and just have fun!! :)

  9. says

    I’ve run quite a lot of races over the past two years and I would say ‘Don’t expect or predict anything from back to back races’. – Your body can just turn around and slow down and it’s got a right to do so!
    It’s the travelling that gets to me too, even if most of the races end up being in my county it’s the hassle of getting there each time, on time!

  10. Jelena@FabLifePhD says

    Oh, I need so much time to recover. After running longer than 10K I feel like a c**p for two days. It does not get better with training. How do you do the ice thing? Just put a pack on your legs or? I guess I am doing something wrong in my recovery process.
    Thnx :)

  11. says

    I’m in the middle of a four week race stretch. Past two weekends: a 10K and half marathon. Next two weekends: a 10K then the Runner’s World 5K, 10K, and half marathon. I’ve been struggling more with the traveling and returning to my normal work week than the actual runs. Love reading these tips!

  12. Rob Runs says

    This past spring two friends and I ran a half-marathon on Sunday, a 5k the next Saturday evening, and another half-marathon the next Sunday morning. As you said we ran, not raced, the first one so we had some kind of energy left for the second two. We ran the 5k a bit harder than we should have so weren’t able to race the second half but with some rest during the week we were good to go.

    In November I’m doing one of those Mock the Clock 5ks where you run at 2AM when the clocks turn back, then a couple hours later I’m running another 5k at 8AM. I’m hoping like six hours between just isn’t enough time for me to actually get tired!

  13. says

    Yep! Every spring I do a race on the Sunday and then another the next Saturday. Mind you it has only been 10k’s – but still a lot for me. I’ll be doing my first half next weekend, and then my second 2 weeks after. We will see how that goes haha. Good luck with all of your races!!

  14. says

    Great tips! I’ve done some back to back shorter races (half, then 10k or 5k then 10k) but never longer distances. You’re right about running vs racing making a big difference in recovery. Enjoy your races!!

  15. Deb says

    I know you are running in the Runner’s World Festival. I wil be there running the Hat Trick. Do you have any meet-up scheduled? Would love to stop by to say hey!

  16. says

    Great tips — and looking forward to all your upcoming races. I can’t even imagine doing all that you do myself — but you are something else! haha

  17. says

    I’ve never done back to back races but I hope to one of these days, maybe next year. The closest I’ve ever come to that is I did a half on Sunday and then another half on the following Saturday…thus 5 days of “rest” in between.

  18. says

    Yup but all of them were short ones – it was difficult but fun. I found that cross training – strength training and elliptical – helped; also the 3Rs: rest, re-fuel and re-hydrate.

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