Once you get into the hang of running and try a few races, you might understand why racing can be intoxicating.
It’s fun to run fast, and the energy of a race is next to none.
After all, who doesn’t want to chase a faster personal record?
I see the topic of “How Often Can I Race?” come up quite a bit in my social media circles. So many people want to know, how soon is too soon to race again after completing one? Someone just completed a half marathon, and there is another race in 2 weeks that they REALLY want to run. Is it doable?
The answer is complicated: It Depends.
This Spring, I used a 12-week training plan to build up to the Salt Lake City Half Marathon in April. 4 weeks later, I ran another local half marathon. The following weekend, I ran the Ogden Half Marathon. This was doable, but I’m not sure that I really want to race that often again.
If you live in a fairly active running area, you’ll notice that there are literally races every single weekend. It can be tempting to sign up for every single race you see within a 50-mile radius because, why not?
Since I live in Utah where the running and triathlon community is very active, I could literally be in some type of event every weekend if I wanted to.
As tempting as it might be, you should take a step back and consider some of the different factors involved when you decide how often to race.
4 Factors to Consider When Deciding How Often to Race
When deciding how often you should race, consider the influencing factors and how they apply to you such as:
- Your fitness level
- How much conditioning you’ve been doing
- Total miles you typically run in a week
- What distance the races are
- How often you’ve raced that distance
- The length of time it takes for your body to recover
- How much money you’re willing to shell out for registration fees
- What goal you’re working towards
Evaluate Your Fitness Level and Conditioning
This should be fairly obvious, but I still see this topic come up quite a bit. One of the biggest factors to consider in how often to race is your fitness level.
If you do 3+ mile runs several times a week in training, including one or two at a hard effort or speed workout, then a weekend 5k might not be a big deal for you. On the other hand, if you’re just getting into running and focusing on building up your weekly mileage, then running a 5k every weekend might be a bigger deal for you.
Gauge where your fitness and conditioning level is in relation to the distance you want to race.
Consider the Race Distances
Racing a 5k is different than racing a half marathon or full marathon. You can typically sprinkle in several shorter races on your way to a bigger race.
If you’re training for a longer race like a full or half marathon, you might include shorter 5k, 10k, or 10-Mile races in your training plan as dress rehearsals for race day and conditioning your ability to be comfortable at race pace.
If you run a certain distance often and know how long it takes for your body to recover, then you very well might be able to race at that distance more often.
Say you’ve run several half marathons and notice that your body can typically recover back to normal in a few days to a week. Then it might be very possible for you to run half marathons on back to back weekends or every other week!
How Much Are You Willing to Spend on Race Entries?
Race registrations cost money. Some more than others.
Sure, it’s not that expensive to run a local 5k or 10k that might only charge $20 for registration. But as you work your way up to the longer distances or bigger races, the costs start to add up quicker.
Most half marathons and full marathons are in the range of $60-120 (or more!) to register. Doing that even once a month or more can really add up quickly!
Consider how much you’re willing to spend on registration before you get too click happy on hitting the “Register” button.
What is your biggest running goal?
It takes time to peak, taper, and recover. Really, it does. A half marathon taper takes a week. Recovery typically takes a week. Peaking can take even longer when you’re trying to build up your mileage over several weeks or months.
Because of this, an ideal training cycle is 8-12 weeks.
However, once you’re conditioned to run a half marathon, you don’t truly need to start from week 1 again. But with 4 weeks or less, it can be really difficult to recover, build up your weekly mileage again, and then taper for another race. When you plot it out on the calendar, it is actually a pretty short timeframe to fit everything in.
If you’re trying to build up to a half marathon and you have a choice between a Saturday morning 5k or a Saturday morning long run of 6+ miles, then a 5k really isn’t serving your purpose of building distance.
On the flip side, if your goal is to run a 50 half marathons in 50 states, then you might not care about time as much as finishing as many races as possible!
Consider your goals and the opportunity cost of racing too often.
If you really want to focus on increasing your fitness and crushing your personal record, then you might want to give yourself a full 12-week training cycle before hitting your goal distance in another race.
How often do you race? How do you build your race schedule for the year?
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About Me: I’m Alexis, Founder of RunningMyBestLife! I am an avid recreational runner, half marathoner, wife, dog mom, busy professional, downhill skier in Northern Utah. My mission is to help new enthusiasts fall in love with the sport of running. I believe that running is a catalyst to taking control of your life and living your best life by design. Learn More –>