Maybe you just heard that Hunter Hayes is headlining St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville at the end of April. Perhaps your partner will get asked on a last-minute business trip to San Diego in June, or your friends are known to plan impromptu Las Vegas road trips on a whim—and would definitely beg you to bring your booty along.
Whatever the circumstances, great getaways are often spontaneous. The only problem is, a race in one of these race-friendly cities might be only a few weeks out. Should you throw your visor in the ring or plan to stick to the sidelines?
If you’re already a regular runner who logs 20 to 30 miles per week, don’t count yourself out just yet. By setting realistic expectations and making the most of your training time, running a half marathon or marathon even just four to six weeks in the future is definitely doable. While not advised on a diet of zero training, read on for nine ways to make those last-minute miles matter most.
1. Frequency trumps volume
To reduce recovery time, do shorter but more frequent runs each week, rather than sticking to a weekly long run. Even a 30-minute run on an easy day is worthwhile. If your schedule allows, once a week try a double run day: running in the morning and then again in the afternoon. Go half the distance in the second run.
2. Quality over quantity
There’s no time for track sessions or hill repeats—you’re off the hook there. Instead, add short, intense bursts of speed with “fast feet” (a quicker, lighter footspeed, or cadence) to your runs. Try two to three rounds (15, 25, 35, 45, 35, 25, 15 sec) with 1 minute easy between each burst and five to 10 minute easy between rounds.
3. Hit the gym
Carve out 20 to 30 minutes twice a week for functional strength work that is dynamic, mimics running, and won’t wear out your legs. Add walking lunges with a twist/torso rotation, step-ups, inchworms, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, and multi-planar single-leg hops to stability, glute, and core exercises.
4. Manage your expectations and your ego.
Sure you’re a badass runner, but this time try leaving your ego at home. Prioritize having fun, stop to smell the cherry blossoms, and maybe even take a break for photos if the situation calls for it. (And trust us, many of the Rock ‘n’ Roll races, do!)
5. There is no shame in walking
Walk breaks are your secret weapon when it comes to keeping fatigue at bay. Incorporate short walk breaks at every aid station, on inclines to manage heart rate, and when your form starts to falter.
6. Pace wisely
When the gun goes off, start slowly, walk through aid stations, and if you feel good with half mile or mile left to go, then have at it. But until that time, reign yourself in.
7. Fuel and hydrate
Even if you only have a few weeks to prep, that’s still plenty of time to test drive your fuel plan in training runs to ensure it agrees with your system. On race day, don’t pass up the Gatorade Endurance and SIS energy gels at the numerous aid stations. Fuel and hydrate consistently, sipping water as needed to balance the gut and promote gastric emptying.
8. Race day magic
What seems nearly impossible in training suddenly becomes easier on race day. What’s different? For starters, the cheering spectators won’t let you quit, the entertaining aid stations will help keep your morale high and your needs met, and the bands along the course will definitely lighten your step.
9. Toughen up, buttercup
Running an endurance race with just a few weeks of training isn’t a cakewalk, so bring a healthy dose of grit and a good attitude to the starting line. If you start to feel worn down, remember what’s waiting for you just past the finish line. A friends’ weekend like no other, an unexpected getaway with your sweetie, or, best of all, Hunter Hayes!
Who’s ready to hit the road?