Training Training


All those running goals we had at the start of the year vanished amid the Covid-19 pandemic. We’re in this together, and all is not lost. Read on to run on!

Setting Running Goals Without Races

7 Reasons to Keep Training Without a Race on Your Calendar

By Brian Metzler

Well, 2020 sure has been an odd year for running, hasn’t it?

All those amazing running goals we all had at the start of the year — running Boston, finishing an Ironman, entering a trail race … heck, even competing in that local 5K race — all vanished amid the Covid-19 pandemic. We’re all in this together, but all is not lost.

Remember, running has not been canceled!

Even though thousands of races have been called off, there are plenty of reasons to keep training. As the country re-opens and a some kind of new normal begins to emerge, there are plenty of reasons to keep training and setting running goals even though there are no races.

1. Indulge in the Vibe

Right about now, we could all use some kind of daily affirmation to remind us that, amid the challenges and stress we’re all facing, life is good. And that’s what running provides us, even without seeking it. You don’t need any more motivation to keep running than to know that running makes you feel good — physically, mentally, emotionally — and it can be just the stress-relieving panacea you need right now. Running cannot solve our challenges, but it can create balance, provoke thoughts and stir the soul of those who engage in it on a regular basis.

2. Embrace the Journey

You probably can’t train for that race you had hoped to, but you can still train as if you were going to race it. The thrill and reward of training doesn’t have to be tied to a finish line moment or a new PR.

Remember, the destination is the journey of fun, fitness and yes, even sometimes frustration. But the journey continues on a daily basis and amid the strain, struggle and the fatigue, it is always restorative and rejuvenating. As Boston Marathon champ Des Linden says, you just have to keep showing up.

3. Run Faster

Running faster workouts can be one of the hardest parts of training, but they can also be very rewarding and a good way to up your fitness level. As you build your aerobic base and endurance, you become stronger and more capable of running faster. Start implementing some sort of up-tempo speed workout once or twice a week — a tempo run, a fartlek workout or intervals on the track — and consider turning your next long run into a progression run in which you pick up the pace for the second half.

4. Run Virtually

Virtual races not only give you an inspiring goal to shoot for and a good reason to follow a training program, but many also raise money for charities and other good causes. While it might seem odd to pay money to train for what will be a time trial that you’ll be running alone, you can eliminate that awkwardness by signing up with a friend to share the journey of training and racing.

It’s not about the metal and the T-shirt — which most virtual races offer as part of the sign-up package — it’s about the progression you make toward your running goals.

Setting Running Goals

5. Challenge Yourself

There are plenty of ways to challenge yourself on a weekly basis despite not having any races on your calendar. Consider chasing Strava segment leaderboards and Fastest Known Times (FKTs) on you local or regional trails. Do a benchmark workout every two or three weeks on the same day — perhaps a 10K tempo run or 6 x 800m repeats — to be able to compare your efforts and track your progress. No doubt your improved fitness will allow you to do those workouts easier at the same pace or faster.

6. Find a Race

Even though the Boston Marathon, Western States 100 and Bolder Boulder 10K have been canceled, some races are still happening. Several states are starting to allow running races to take place this summer and fall, including Utah, Alabama, Montana, Wisconsin and Washington.

Although there is no guarantee they’ll remain on the schedule, you might be able to find a race and run your heart out after all.

7. Plan for Next Year

If you are resolved that you won’t be racing until next year, there’s still plenty of reason to train and set running goals this year. The miles you log and the fitness you gain this year can have physical and mental carryover effects to 2021.

The chances of improving your 2021 marathon time or finishing your first ultra-distance race can be greatly enhanced by increasing your mileage, improving your strength and increasing your speed this summer and fall.

About The Author: Brian Metzler

Brian Metzler has run races at every distance from 50 meters to 100 miles, wear-tested more than 1,500 pairs of shoes, is a three-time Ironman finisher and occasionally participates in the quirky sport of pack burro racing in Colorado.

He’s the founding editor of Trail Runner magazine, is a former senior editor at Running Times and editor in chief at Competitor Magazine. He’s the author of “Kicksology“, “Running Colorado’s Front Range” and the co-author of “Natural Running: The Simple Path to Stronger Healthier Running” and “Run Like a Champion: An Olympian’s Approach for Every Runner.”