As part of Walt Disney’s Marathon weekend, runners tackle a 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon over a four-day period. They call it the Dopey Challenge. At the Runner’s World Half Marathon and Running Festival there’s the Hat Trick. Participants cover a 5K and a 10K on Saturday and follow it up with a half marathon on Sunday. It may sound like a ridiculous amount of miles, but multi-day race events are wildly popular.
It can be difficult to train for a single race, let alone three or four races in a single weekend. However, the training principles remain the same: preparation, pacing and persistence. Runners should be able to handle the total mileage, plan for conservative racing, and be prepared for a race that will test their resolve.
A typical training plan consists of easy days and hard days. On a typical weekend, you might have a long run followed by a rest day—or an easy day preceding a long run. If you’re planning on racing consecutive days, you have to mimic the multi-day environment. Try a tempo run on Saturday followed with a long run on Sunday. Or, try running a double on one day and follow it up with a fast-finish long run the next day. These tough back-to-back sessions will help you build the stamina you’ll need to survive a multi-day race.
Don’t expect a weekend full of PRs and fast race times. Pace yourself so that you can survive the miles. If you want to focus your energy on a single race, that’s fine. Just be sure to compensate by allowing yourself to coast through the others. Not every race can be run at 100 percent effort in such a short span of time.
Recovery plays a major role in multi-day racing as well. Stretching, foam rolling, hydrating, refueling and sleeping are all big contributors to speeding up the recovery process. Some runners swear that tart cherries and grape seed extract help them recover faster by reducing inflammation. Find out what works for you and be prepared to pamper yourself in between race events.
Lastly, plan for every type of weather. Bring plenty of running clothes and a couple pairs of shoes. You never know when blisters will develop, storm clouds will threaten, or you just want to eat something familiar for a change. As the saying goes, it’s better to have and not need, than to need and not have.
Find your next race.