732. How to plan your marathon and ultramarathon races for the year

Here’s how to plan your marathons and ultramarathons for the year: 

  • Schedule 1 – 4 ‘A’ race events
  • Allow 12 weeks between major events
  • Maybe use training races as long runs? max 1 per month
  • Have an off-season

Here’s a spreadsheet that you can use as a template. Having the visual helps me plan my year out a little bit better. 

Hey guys, thanks for tuning in – let me preface this with the fact that this guide is a general rule of thumb, yes there will be exceptions to the rules. You know you’re body best, as the saying goes – take what is useful, ignore the rest, and add your own flare. 

And with that! let’s get into it. 

The reason we’re going to touch on how to plan your marathon and ultra-marathon races for the year is that, well, I just did that! I just planned my entire next year’s races for the first time ever. Usually, I see a race a few months out, register – and start training, but now I have the entire year preplanned. I really just need to wait until registration for these races opens, and then start my training come January time

So a quick back story: The reason I started running was that in 2019 I set my misogi to run a marathon. A misogi is almost like a new years goal – it’s typically some sort of physical event, but it could be anything, remember add your own flare? 

Anyway, I wasn’t a runner at all – never even ran before. 26.2 miles? That seemed impossible. 

I registered for the 2019 Philadelphia marathon in November 2018 – which gave me a whole year of training. 

The thing is – I was so new I thought this was the only race around. I remember google-ing Philadelphia marathons and this was the first race that came up. 

After registering for the race i was so scared like what did I just do and immediately started to “train.” (I had no idea what I was doing – lungs burning, feeling winded, injuries galore)

Somehow I found out that some people run “ultra races” – distances over 32 miles – more often longer. I was dumbfounded – I truly believed that humans could barely run a marathon without dying. I assumed that was the max distance.   

But Each year since, I’ve pretty much set my yearly misogi to double the previous year’s race distance. 

This led to a 50-mile race, a 100-mile race, and a 200-mile race.

Look, never in a million years did I think that it was possible for a human to run 50 miles or 100 miles or 200 miles, let alone me! 

Don’t let where you are now fool you into thinking you can’t get to where you want to go. 

The reason I’m telling you this stuff is that I never set a race calender up until this year, it’s been four years of running! 

Don’t get caught up making a race calendar that you forget to do the most important thing – breaking your mental and physical limits through running races. 

Quite literally all you have to do is:

  • sign up for a race a few months out, maybe a year out
  • train for it
  • see how you do 
  • Repeat 

Building your specific race calendar 

First, what’s your goal for running? Is it to perform your best at a specific event like the Philadelphia marathon or the Leadville 100? Is it to run a series of races like the PA triple crown, the super slam, or the triple crown 200? Is it to double last year’s distance or run a certain event faster? 

It’s important to know where we want to go because different endpoints may require different means of getting there. For a crazy analogy: If we want to be the best home run hitter, it doesn’t make sense to practice free throws. We want to make sure that any other events support our goal without derailing us. 

Here are four rules to follow when you build your race calendar:  

Rule 1: Schedule 1 – 4 ‘A” race events per year

What’s an A race? This is simply the race you try to set a personal record on. You go all out, going for broke. Really, there’s no data I can provide to back this up – but after talking to quite a few ultra runners about this topic, a general consensus is to only have 1-4 per year. 

To run 1 A race or 4? This depends on your fitness level, and goals – here’s what my journey of A races looked like the past few years. 

2019: Marathon 

2020: 50 miler 

2021: 50 miler, 100 miler 

2022: 50 miler, 12 hour race (60 miles), 200 miler 

Rule 2: Allow 12 weeks between major events

There are no data for this one either, it’s just something that seems to work for most ultra runners. It gives the body time to recover, allows us to return to some sort of training, and benefit from the fitness boost. Some people may need more time, others less. 

For me, the weeks after an A race I pay close attention to my body, how does it feel? Are there any areas I need to fix? And if so, I build a plan to fix the issue and commit to working on that. 

For example, My last A race was the buckeye two-hundred-mile ultra marathon that ended in the first few days of October, I dealt with major shin splint issues and still am. This shin is an area I am still trying to fix, and the plan for fixing this issue has changed from stretches to ice and elevation to massages and mobility work. 

Rule 3: maybe use training races as long runs?  max 1 per month

Quite a few people like to run 50k’s and 50-mile races as a way to supplement their training. It’s a double edge sword because it requires a disciplined approach. AKA if the goal is to use this as a training race and not an A race – THEN USE IT AS A TRAINING RACE AND NOT AN “A” RACE! I think If we go too hard, bonk, and suffer through a training race – we’d do more harm than good in preparing us for our A race that’s coming up. 

For me, I don’t really use races as long as training runs. I typically use my A races to build up to the next A race. 

Rule 4: Have an off-season (1-3 months) 

Use the off-season time as a way to cross-train, ease our training blocks, and explore other forms of movement. It’s not for everybody, but It’s for me. Look I’m in this game for the long haul. 

Right now I am currently in an off-season. I finished planning my races and am working on different forms of movement. Most recently it’s been increasing strength training – I’m trying to do the muscle up – and doing longer bike rides – I just did my longest ride – a 40 miler! 

November thru February is also registration season with many major races having their process open during this time, so what if we could have our races for the year planned around this time? The sooner the better too because some of the more popular races fill up as quick as five minutes. 

Once we have our A races squared up, we can start completing our race calendar and filling in additional races using the principles above: 

  • 1-4 A races
  • 12 weeks for recovery
  • maybe 1 training race per month
  • some sort of off-season

Thanks for tuning in – I appreciate your attention!

GO get your miles! 

Thanks again yall, peace!

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