Home > Beginners

Should you run a tune-up race?

marathoner Lanni Marchant
2012 Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon start. Photo: CRS
2012 Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon start. Photo: CRS

If you’re training for a spring race, be it a local 5K or a major marathon, running a race as part of your training and preparation is probably a good idea.


A tune-up is a race that you run in advance and as part of your training for an upcoming and important goal race. Often times, a tune-up race is of a shorter distance than your goal race. For example, a half-marathon is a good tune-up for a marathon and a 5K is a good tune-up for a 10K.


Running a tune-up serves a number of important and useful purposes, including:

  • Allow you to practice and establish a race day routine, including when you get up, what you eat, what you wear and all the things you do before the race begins.
  • Mimics the energy and atmosphere of race day. Nerves, anxiety and adrenaline are all things you need to train for, just like anything else. Experiencing this beforehand will help you better deal with them.
  • Provides an opportunity to practice your race plan, including pacing, hydrating and fuelling during the race.
  • Gives you an accurate idea of your current fitness and allows you to assess how your training is going.
  • A tune-up race result give a  realistic outlook of your next race.
  • Builds a sense of comfort and confidence in your ability to run your goal race.


For races up to and including the half marathon, aim to run a tune-up race at least two weeks before your goal race. If you’re running a marathon, aim for at least four weeks.

2012 Tamarack Homes Ottawa Race Weekend


If your goal race is a marathon, run a half marathon or 30K about four weeks before the event.

If your goal race is a half marathon, run a 10K or 15K two to four weeks before the event.

If your goal race is a 10K, run a 5K or 8K race two or three weeks before the event.

If your goal race is a 5K, run another 5K two weeks before the event.


A tune-up race can be done almost anywhere but it’s also a good idea to choose one that closely mimics the course, conditions and circumstances you will likely encounter during your goal race. You can use RaceGuide to search and view from over 2,000 events in Canada including the ones closest to you.


You can choose to run the tune-up race as fast as you can to get a good indication of your fitness and help determine your future goals. Or you can run the race at the pace you hope to run your goal race to build confidence and practice running comfortably at that pace.