how to prepare for back-to-back races

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The Concrete Runner - Back-to-Back Races
I can’t believe there is only ONE WEEK before we leave for Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago!  I am once again doing the Remix Challenge – running the 5K on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday.  I really enjoyed doing both races, as the 5K is short enough that it doesn’t take up the whole day and we were still able to enjoy the day exploring in Chicago.  This year, we bought tickets for a Cubs game (no worries, I’ll ALWAYS be a Cardinals fan) so that Matt could cross off “visiting Wrigley field” from his bucket list.  We are also planning on checking out a new-to-us brewery while we are there and just relaxing as much as possible before the half marathon on Sunday morning.

It seems as though these back-to-back, “challenge” races are becoming more and more popular.  I first learned about them because of the Goofy and Dumbo challenges that Run Disney puts on.  As much as that sounds like a really fun challenge, I’m not sure I can convince myself to run a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon on consecutive days.  Blech.  That’s a little too much training for me – and if I’m going to Disney, I want to enjoy Disney with my family – not worry about resting for a marathon on Sunday.

However, when I had the opportunity to register for the Remix Challenge at Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago last year, I jumped at the chance!  A 5K on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday sounded completely doable to me.  And it gave me a chance to really dip my foot into these challenge races.  Now, I’m seeing more and more of these pop up, including our local GO! St. Louis race weekend who started offering a challenge medal this past year, running the 5K on Saturday and then either the half or marathon on Sunday.  I feel like it’s a lot harder for me to jump on board the local races just because it means that I have to travel downtown 2 days in a row, which isn’t easy when you don’t live in the city.


However, in order to be successful at racing these back-to-back races, you have to have some sort of strategy when you approach training and racing.  For me, the thing that made the most sense in order to fully prepare myself and be successful for the Remix Challenge last year was only focusing on one race that weekend.

What do I mean by that?  I mean, there is no way that I could try to race the 5K on Saturday and expect to have a great half marathon on Sunday.  That just wasn’t going to happen.  If I ran a 5K in an attempt to PR (which I did not last year, but I had a great 5K time at 6 months postpartum), there was no way I could expect myself to run a PR for the half marathon on Sunday.  So, I didn’t train that way nor did I race that way on race weekend.

You have to pick only ONE race to focus on.  For me, last year was all about getting my speed back after having Miles.  So, I decided to focus on racing the 5K and running the half marathon for fun.  That meant, my training had to focus on speed work for a fast 5K while building my weekend mileage for the half marathon.  While I was only focusing on RACING the 5K, I still had to PREPARE for both races.  I couldn’t expect to finish a half marathon (especially in the middle of the summer) if I didn’t adequately build up my mileage to run a half marathon.


This year, I have been focusing on the half marathon.  I typically only run one half marathon each year.  This year, I am running THREE – which is about 30% more than the number of half marathons I’ve ever run.  I am determined to PR this year and surprised myself with a really great race back in April at GO! St. Louis.  So, my goal for Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago is to attempt for that PR.

Right now, I’m sitting at a 1:35:36 half marathon PR.  In April, I ran a 1:37:07 – just a minute and a half slower than my PR.  My goal is to get under 1:35 at some point this year, whether that is next weekend or in October at Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Louis.  So, my training has completely focused on running a fast half marathon.

The best part about reversing my training this year is that I really don’t even have to worry about the 5K because my half marathon training is naturally helping with my 5K time.  And while I’m still doing the Remix Challenge, I get to use Saturday’s 5K as a nice, easy shakeout run before the half marathon on Sunday.  No worries about PRing or even running as fast as possible.  My focus is only on the half, which takes a lot of pressure off me running a fast 5K.  And I will get to fully enjoy my Saturday in Chicago…

OK, that’s a lie.  I’ll be nervous as heck about running on Sunday, but our busy day (NOT spent doing too much walking – I made that mistake before running the Chicago Marathon in 2010) will keep my brain off racing on Sunday!

Are you planning on running Dumbo, Goofy, or a Remix Challenge but don’t know how to prepare for it?  I would LOVE to coach you to a successful back-to-back racing weekend with one of my personalized training programs!  With my training programs you receive:

    • A personalized program unique to your training goals and personal schedule
    • One-on-one coaching from me through phone or video consults
    • A private Facebook group for accountability and encouragement

Interested?  Email me at to schedule a 15-minute consult to talk about your training goals and the plan that is right for you!

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