Whether you want to run a full or Half Marathon, you probably have come across a training plan that features a test or training race a few weeks before your real race. You might have thought: “why should I run a race other than my real one?”
The simple answer is: you can simulate a lot during training, but there are a lot of things you can only experience and practice during actual races. I am a huge fan of racing often, not only to feed your medal addiction, but also to be better prepared for the big race that matters.
So here are my top 5 reasons why I love training races:
You can test your progress in a training race
How do you know if your training is going well? If you are really capable of running your goal time on race day?
Right, you test it out over a shorter distance. And from there you evaluate and readjust. If the test race is close to your real race you might even be able to predict you goal time and set a good race strategy.
You can test your gear
You want to run a new pair of shoes on race day? Take them out for a race before. Thinking of running in a new fancy race singlet? Wear it. Nothing will test your gear the same way a proper race does. Why? Because you will run differently than in training. You will run faster, maybe sweat more, have different stride. You might then chafe in different places, where you never chafed before. Don’t wait for the real race to find out.
You can practice your nutrition
Yes we all have heard it: you need to teach our body to digest food during a race. Your body will draw blood to the extremeties while running, and this can upset your stomach. You want to test in advance what you can and can’t digest. Don’t wait for real race day to discover that your tummy does not like pre race donuts. Trust me. Not fun.
Don’t be that person.
Also you need to practice the act of eating and drinking. Everyone who ever tried sipping water in tiny cups at the aid station knows that
You will gain more experience
Everyone will react differently to race day. You might get nervous and anxious. You might need to be on your own. Or want to be distracted. For sure you will need to go to the loo before a race, but how often? (Especially when using the coffee and imodium strategy I describe here.)
Do you prefer running with a pace maker? What about some music to run to? How do you run when there ate lots of people around you? How do you make sure you don’t fall running over thousands of slippery water cups?
These are things you can’t simulate in training. You will have to properly race to experience these. A training race is the perfect opportunity for this.
Especially if you suffer from a lot of pre-race anxiety training races are key. My strategy to race often allowed me to learn how I react to racing, what issues might come up and what I can do about it. I still suffer from anxiety, but I am now more used to it.
A training race will push you to go harder
The ambiance of a race is much different than in training. There is an obvious countdown, cheering crowds at the sidelines, and your fellow competitors around you. All this will push you to go harder than what you might go in training.
Also you are less likely to skip a training race than a normal tempo run as you paid for it obviously.
So a test race can actually be a good and valid workout in your normal training session.
Have you done any training races? Let me know how they went in the comments below.