It’s pretty rare to find any runner line up for a race having trained exactly as they’d planned too. It’s instead far more likely that life got in the way and derailed one’s training to some degree. And now with only days or weeks to the race you committed to, you’re left wondering how it will go and what you can do to maximize your success.
The good news is that you’re not alone and certainly not the only one who trained less than intended. Most of the people lined up next to you are probably in a similar situation. Knowing this, there are definitely some things you can do to make the most of being a tad undertrained:
It’s important at the very least to accept that your training did not go exactly to plan. Convincing yourself otherwise or refusing to accept this will only be counterproductive to your success.
Adjust your expectations
Once you’ve accepted that you’re not in the shape you hoped to be, you’ll naturally need to adjust your expectations. If you only missed a small amount of training or a handful of key runs and workouts, you won’t need to make any drastic changes to your goals but should still be prepared to accept a range of possible outcomes. If on the other hand, you missed a significant amount of your training–had to take more than two weeks off–or skipped out on a dozen or more key runs–including long runs and speed sessions–you should be willing to accept that your goals may need to be changed quite a bit and that your performance will likely suffer as a result of missed training.
Take advantage of your advantage
One of the ‘benefits’ of going into the race with less than ideal training is you should feel rested, fresh and will hopefully have avoided the risk of injury. Assuming you are healthy (i.e. injury-free) and well rested, you can mentally prepare to run well and may even surprise yourself with an unexpectedly good result.
Use it as a learning experience
If racing or meeting a performance goal is not likely to happen, you can still use the race as a valuable training run and learning experience. This can include practicing pre-race routines, familiarizing yourself with the event–the venue, the course, what to expect before, during and after–practice pacing and race execution, fueling and hydration as well as post-run recovery. Without the pressure to perform but with the same atmosphere and environment, use the experience to become more comfortable with racing and races.
Worst–by which we really mean best–case scenario, you simply show up and have a great time. Running a race is a celebration of health, fitness and community spirit and being a part of that can be incredibly motivational, uplifting and beneficial in and of itself.