This summer, usually race-based runners (like myself) have been freed from the tyranny of training plans and goal races.
I say that a bit tongue in cheek; I love training plans and goal races have provided structure for my running for the better part of 20 years.
But for me, not having a goal race and weekly mileage dictated by a training plan has provided a unique opportunity to try out new kinds of runs and to focus on areas of fitness I usually think (rightly or wrongly) I’m ‘too busy’ to work into my usual marathon training cycles.
Non-Race Running Goals
But I’m ultimately a goal-based runner. I want my runs to move me towards something.
I know many other runners are like this too.
While those goals can’t be races (for the time being), the running world is so much bigger than goal races.
Run a Virtual Ultra
To suggest running a virtual race would be a cheat on a ‘non-race’ goal list. But I’m not talking about a virtual 5k or 10k here.
This summer has seen an explosion of virtual races of a different type – virtual ultras designed to be run over the course of weeks or months.
These are not get-up-one-day-and-knock-it-out 5k virtual races. These are run-500-miles-by-the-end-of-the-year-3-or-5 miles-at-a-time races.
There are at least three different runs across California.
Pick a major, complete-it-over-the-course-of months ultra and go for it!
Running a formal, on-line challenge isn’t the only challenge option.
Sure – getting swag and online tracking are cool benefits, but consider the kinds of things you enjoy on the run and create your own running challenge:
- Run every street in your town
- Create a piece of Strava art each week
- Run through every park in your city
- Run the elevation equivalent of Everest or Denali
- Create a scavenger hunt
OK. I’m just gonna say this – the fitness world is so much more than running.
Adding in strength work and mobility work (like yoga, barre, and pilates) will directly and positively impact your running.
Other cross-training options like biking, rowing, and anything else you can imagine will help your body and your brain – giving you a little variety.
Make it a goal to become a better runner this summer by not running (as much).
Let yourself start to miss running by doing other fitness endeavors regularly.
Do the Opposite of Your Normal
Think of who you are as a runner in ‘normal’ times.
Do you gravitate towards long, slow runs or love the thrill and effort of short, little runs?
Well, we aren’t in normal times – so flip it.
If you (usually) go long – make it your goal to focus on shorter runs for a while. Get used to pushing yourself while running shorter distances.
If you (usually) stay short – go long. Slowly build your running base and endurance by running slower, more comfortably paced, longer runs.
Consider Your Really Big Running Goals
OK, so we can’t (currently) plan for races in the next few months. Most fall marathons are off.
That doesn’t mean all forward looking-planning (race-based or otherwise) is off.
Think about your long term running goals. The things you want to accomplish someday, maybe, if all the stars align one day.
- Run an ultra?
- Run the Paris marathon?
- Win your age group at a local race?
- Still be a healthy and active runner when you are 80?
Now work this goal backwards to today.
What sorts of things can you start doing now to make those dreams a reality in 5 or 10 (or more) years?
If you want to run an ultra at some point in the next few years, there is more to it than building up your mileage (which you wouldn’t do years in advance anyway). But you can start working on your mindset, recovery and nutrition today.
While running the Paris Marathon years from now isn’t something you’d develop a training plan for today, you can open a savings account, setting aside spare change today to one day fund your Parisian adventure.
What can you do now to start moving you closer to your long-term audacious running goals?
Run Without Tech
Make it a goal to head out the door and run naked (with no tech), a certain number of days a week.
Don’t worry about time, distance, or pace.
Just head out the door to run. No Garmin, no GPS, no Runkeeper app, no Apple watch.
Only pay attention to your body and how you feel as you run.
This is what I’ve been doing this summer– although my one tech concession is I’m still listening to podcasts on the run. Those I just can’t seem to give up.
Master Your Tech
Another option is to make it a goal to master your tech this summer.
Many (most?) runners have a GPS watch. Some of those watches are pretty straightforward. Other are super complex and could probably launch the space shuttle if you found the right data field (and if we still had a space shuttle).
I’d also guess many (most?) runners never get beyond the basics of what their watch can do.
Find the user’s manual for your watch online and on one run each week, try out a new-to-you feature.
Or (finally) set up your watch’s data fields in a way that makes more sense to you and the information you want on the run.
Dig into those random fields (like cadence, vertical oscillation, or training effect) that you always see, but have no idea how to use or maximize on the run.
Think beyond the finish line.