Can you run too many races?

Race day is fun!

When you get started entering races and taking part in mass-participation events, you get a thrill and a buzz from being part of something with other people. You get an excitement that is rarely replicated elsewhere. Races are enjoyable, it is an opportunity for you to test how much you have improved, how stronger you have become, and how awesome a photo you can be part of whilst running too!

After the Chester Half Marathon 2015 With Steve Guinness (standing) and Clive Marlton (sat down)
After the Chester Half Marathon 2015 With Steve Guinness (standing) and Clive Marlton (sat down)

This adrenaline burst from race day can become a bit of an addiction. The lure of nice shiny bling or new running t-shirt from the event are nice to have. The medals you collect from races do look very impressive when hung up on a wall to show people. The t-shirts are useful to wear on training runs to show that you did that race, you have done that distance, and that you have been part of that mass participation event.

What is the real reason for entering these races? Is it the thrill in the challenge of the race? Is it the social aspect of the before and after of the race and celebrating or commiserating together as part of a group of friends? Is it the drive of needing to beat your last time, to get a PB, or to have another go at the course that destroyed you last time?!

My experiences

I’ve known many people book races just because someone else has booked it too. I’ve known people who try and book to do as many races as possible. I myself, the last couple of years, completed over 50 races within two calendar years, I know the lure of a race is strong!

In 2014 I set myself the challenge of getting as many race medals as possible. I ended up doing 31 races and getting 26 medals in the meantime. It is nice to collect so many medals, and to have so many momentos of those early mornings so many weekends throughout the year. The following year I ran 23 races and got 23 medals.

What I do know that is you cannot be competitive and at your best running when you are competing so often. Last year I had four half marathon races in six weeks. The thought of competing in North Lincolnshire, Chester, Edinburgh and Liverpool beforehand was great. Here I am on my own personal half marathon tour of the UK! I managed to PB at the first race, knocking over 9 minutes off my time. By the next race, I was roughly where my old PB time was, and the last two races thereabouts or even a bit slower than that.

My performances were dipping as I didn’t give myself the correct amount of rest time in between the races. I was still wanting to run three or four times a week and give parkrun a blast too. What I had failed to understand at the time of booking was that running hard and long is difficult, and no matter how many half marathons you have run, if you don’t allow yourself to get proper rest and recovery time in between races, you will find it difficult. Your time may not suffer necessarily, but you may find it harder to get the optimum time that you may be desiring.

Have a look at how much money you are spending on races. I totted up my 2014 race entry fees (not including travel or accommodation) and it came to over £900. Are you happy with spending all that money on race days where you may not be able to give the race your best shot? Doesn’t make financial sense, as well as the toil it takes on your body.

I love the atmosphere on race day. I really enjoy taking part in events and seeing all the happy faces of people supporting and cheering you on. What I have now learnt to do is to do a lot fewer races and to make the most of each of those occasions. Having completed nearly 70 races over the last few years, I have done a lot of the main races nearby and don’t feel the same draw towards entering them unless I feel I am competitively likely to be on form.

My viewpoint

I do firmly believe that you can do too many races, and that it is symptomatic of society nowadays of must have everything there and then. I must enter this race this year, rather than planning better and maybe looking to do it another year instead if you’ve already got lots of things going on. A lot of people do things because they don’t want to feel like they are missing out on something. If your body is tired from running, why not go and support instead. You can get so much out of supporting on race day, and you still don’t miss out from the race day buzz.

If you are one of those people who are spending more than two weeks salary a year on race entries, then I would like to suggest that you may need to have a look into why you are running so many races, do you really appreciate how much you spend on races even if you can afford them, and to identify if you need to revisit your ‘must do that race’ approach to running.

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