How to plan your races for the year

So, this being the New Year and all, it’s a great time to start planning your races for the coming year but how do you go about it? Do you have a system or a goal? Or do you just pick random races that look like fun?

Shedule your races

I’ve been running for several years now and I’ve planned my races several ways. When I first started, I picked races that looked like fun and as I got better I picked races that looked fun and challenging. As I got more serious about running, I started to choose races based on my distance goals and for the past few years I’ve planned my races based on my PR goals and my knowledge of the courses or reviews, etc.

Running Races

Regardless of what your goals are, planning is the key to reach them. So, here are some of the steps you should take when planning your races this year.


Do your research and find out as much as you can. Ask your friends who have run the race previously for any input, look at the race web site and search for reviews online. Also take a look at the course and find out as much as you can about the race before you sign up.

Make sure you have enough time to train

If you’re signing up for a half marathon and you’ve never run one before or if your longest run to date is 8 miles, you need to plan your race far enough in advance so that you have time to train. And don’t forget about the taper!

Racing for Bling

Pick your biggest races first.

I like to pick the races I want to run most first and then I can go ahead and register for them. Some of the bigger races sell out quickly and the prices increase the closer you get to the actual race date so it’s best to go ahead and register. Also, once you register for them you can start training. This year, I’ll be picking my biggest races based on my PR goals, the courses, the race reputation and the fun factor but you should pick your biggest races for your own reasons.

Schedule additional races

After you pick your biggest races you can schedule the additional races you want to run. I usually don’t register for my additional races until 2 months before the event and sometimes even later. That way, if I feel that running any of them will affect my training, or if I think I’m at risk for an injury, I can delete them from my schedule.

Racing Schedule

Have a back-up plan and be flexible

I like to have a back-up plan just in case some races don’t pan out. Sometimes races get cancelled or something comes up and a scheduled race conflicts with your schedule so have some back up races on the calendar just in case.

How do you plan your races? Do you plan the year in advance? Do you have a method that you use?

28 thoughts on “How to plan your races for the year

  1. Great post! I plan my races based on whether it sounds like a fun race, it’s location and my availability to travel that weekend, whether the distance fits in with that year’s goals, and whether or not I can get anyone interested in running it with me. I’ve already scheduled my year out with a race almost every month, but that can change easily since I haven’t signed up for any of them yet.

    BTW, will you be traveling to VA this year to visit your family? If I remember correctly your sister lives somewhat near me. If you’re in the area, I’d love to meet up for a run together!

  2. My first race was a mud run in August 2013. I was hooked and started a Google spread that I share with two of my friends. We post all the races we are interested in (along with cost breakdowns). We have probably done about 2 a month. I like the fun factor and am shooting for more OCRs this year and trail races (didn’t even know they had trail races before I did my first one). The nice thing about the calendar is that even if you can’t make a race it is there as a reminder for next year. Cost also comes into play for some, but am making room for it in the budget (Groupon has had OCRs and trail races). I go for early registration, but learned that I can’t do it in the winter.

    • Thanks for sharing Kristin, that is an awesome idea, I love that. You can also google the race name and ‘discount code’ and alot of times you can find one good for 5-20 dollars off. Every little bit helps and maybe you can share any discount codes on your calendar. 🙂 OOOOH, I’m getting excited, I just might have to steal your calendar idea…. hope that’s okay.

    • I ran one out of state this year and it was a blast. Granted it was in my hometown, but still 700 miles away and I am a control freak with serious OCD so it wasn’t exactly easy for me, but I did it and after all was said and done, I loved it. 🙂

  3. This is a great post. I decide this year to do races that you can register the day of or close to the deadline because my knee is unpredictable…maybe if I get a job making the bookoo bucks I will pay for them in advance…really want to travel the world and run races…gonna cost some serious $$$…for now I am just a saving while I am in school…on day though…on day!

      • I would love to run the Nike Women series, I am so jealous! I have a few big races, the Athleta Iron Girl half, Women’s Running half and the Space Coast Full Marathon. I have about 9 other halfs I want to do but I’m trying to be a little more conservative this year and not overextend myself.

    • I totally understand about the knee. My knee is okay but I have issues with my achilles that sometimes takes me out at the last minute. Hope that knee gets better. And I’m glad you’re in school, it will pay off in the long run and you’ll be able to travel and run, (btw, that’s one of my goals too.)

  4. 2013 was really my first full year of running so the race schedule was pretty limited. I decided to only do 5k’s so I looked for more or less local ones. Had I not spent so much time “in recovery” (medical, that is!) I possibly might have given a 10k a try. Lots of races in the London area so I’m sure a 10k is on the horizon for this year, if the fates decree! Not yet into choices based on PR’s or anything.

    • I think PR’s are something that can wait, it’s so much better to go for distance first IMO, then you can determine which distance you like best and tweak your training to work for a PR. It took me a few years to get to that point. Be careful not to increase your mileage too quickly because you definitely don’t want to get injured. Good luck in your races this year and don’t forget to come here and leave race recaps for me and my readers. You never know when I may get a wild hair and decide to run in London! 🙂

  5. 2013 was my first year of racing. I only did three races but that was because I wasn’t sure how I’d like racing. Turns out I like it enough to try to do 14 this year. Although I’ll be getting a bit of a later start (February) because of my IT band injury so I want to make sure I have enough time to heal before racing. It’s funny you posted on this topic because I was just checking out the website with all the central valley races for California. We have sort of a tight budget so I’m trying to pick wisely and space them out so my husband doesn’t have a heart attack. I do want to plan one special womens race that we have to travel to. I already gave him the heads up 🙂

    • 🙂 I’m so glad you love racing, it’s one of the things I love most about running too and I totally understand the tight budget thing. Be sure to google the race name and ‘discount code’ for any race you want to run. Many times a discount code will be out there somewhere, (usually on a blog) and you can save anywhere from 5-20 dollars so it’s totally worth it. Good luck this year!

  6. My first year I signed up for almost every race my running club recommended or required. Our season is built around the Akron half marathon, so I sign up for that as early as possible, even a year ahead if possible. The second year I only signed up for the races I liked, and I was more selective about Saturday races since they required me to fork over 50 bucks to a babysitter. This year I’ve registered early for three half marathons. The only race I’m going to register early for is the Hot Chocolate 15k, since it will be a destination race for me.

    • Good plan! I should have mentioned in my post about destination races. Those are always the first ones you should sign up for as well as making travel plans and booking flights, hotels, etc. 🙂

  7. I use the random oh, that looks fun method. Tried and true! 🙂 I do try to sign up for runs as early as possible since they are usually less expensive if you sign up early!

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