You’ve been training for months with a singular focus on crossing that finish line. You managed not to develop an injuries. You squeezed in runs when it was raining, when you had 42 things on your to do list, but the race is cancelled and beyond your control.
In 2012, I jumped on a plane filled with nerves to run my first NYC marathon. We’d been watching the news non-stop after Hurricane Sandy and it seemed everything was still a go. Arriving, a lot of things felt 100% normal, including the thousands of runners milling around the Expo and Central Park.
Then 8PM during a party with Runner’s World we got the news that the race was cancelled. We UNDERSTOOD on a massive level exactly why it was cancelled and runners then banded together the next day to go out and help clean up neighborhoods, but that didn’t mean our hearts weren’t also a bit broken.
And left many of us wondering what to do with tall the fitness we’d build and peaked to utilized.
Options After a Race is Cancelled
Whether you’re experiencing this because of the coronavirus cancelling Paris, Tokyo or other races, or simply due to weather (a common spring running issue), here’s some advice on what to do next.
After a race cancellation you have a couple key options:
- Choose a new race ASAP
- Choose a new distance within a few months
- Scrap this round of training in favor of a new goal
IN ALL CASES, it’s 100% ok to have your feelings!!!
Be sad that your goal has shifted.
Be frustrated that you need to rethink all your plans.
Be proud of yourself for all the hard work that you’ve put in.
Then you take action.
Because that’s what runners do! We face training obstacles all the time and this is just a bigger one than we ever hope to face. But once it happens, whether you race right away or not it’s REALLY important to remember that your training was NOT wasted.
It’s a bit like the mental recovery from an injury!
Option 1: Find a Nearby Race In the Next Two Weeks
If you had a destination race on the books, it’s not going to feel like an equal replacement to race locally. However, due to the stress of changing plans that local race is your best bet to allow yourself to settle in and take advantage of your training.
Of course, if your race has been cancelled due to weather this may not be a solution…but within a few weeks there are often other options that are still within a 2 hour drive and will allow you to capitalize on training.
Sticking to the SAME race distance, this is an example of how I would treat marathon training when your race has been cancelled.
- On the day your race would have been, go out for a long EASY run. Bounce back up to your highest long run distance if you can.
- In other words, try to repeat about 70-80% of your peak week mileage on the original race week.
- In the following two weeks, go back to your taper, drop the mileage again, but keep 2 days with short bouts of speed work.
- Focus big time on nutrition and sleep to help your body drop the cortisol which will impact your race day.
If you opt for a shorter distance, remind yourself that you’ve been training more for endurance than speed. So just because it’s shorter doesn’t mean you will automatically go out and crush it.
EXAMPLE converting marathon plan to half marathon
Original marathon plan week 13 of 16, roughly comparable to week 9 of a 12 week half marathon plan.
You’ll see that the overall feeling is the same, but mileage is lower. Since you have a solid base on distance, your half marathon plan can still include runs up to 15 miles. This will benefit you when adding in 1 or 2 speed sessions during the week that include goal pace running.
Want the entire plans? Find them all in my book!
Option 2: Find a Race in a Couple Months
If there’s nothing nearby or you can’t find a similar distance soon, then take a step back and create a new plan for the next couple of months. For those who have been marathon training, in a few months you might be able to have a pretty stellar half marathon or simply got out stronger in the full marathon with the right steps.
- Marathon runners should use the additional two months to really work on hip, glute and core strength.
- The additional months of high mileage will mean you can’t skimp on the injury prevention pre-hab.
- If sticking to the same distance, you can use your original race week as a good recovery week and then step back in your plan to two months prior and follow the build up again.
- If you’re dropping down to a shorter distance, then you’ll want cut the long run distances some and add in speed work at your new goal race pace.
Option 3: Wait to Find a Race that Excites You
This option may be both the hardest and potentially most rewarding. In 2012, I decided not to sign up for another marathon, but instead to wait and run NYC marathon in 2013. Did that mean all of my training was wasted? No.
- Your training has taught you things about yourself you may never have known.
- You’re now fitter and stronger, mentally and physically.
- You can spend some time enjoying friends, family and other types of training.
- You have no pressure to perform with a whacky schedule change.
- You don’t show up to a race you aren’t excited about and then find you have a less than stellar day because you weren’t mentally on board.
Have you had a race cancelled?
What did you do next?
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