Before you know it, the race you signed up for months ago is looming and you aren't nearly as prepared as you'd hoped. If you don't race, you lose the cost of the entry fee, and if you do race, you risk feeling terrible—or a DNF.
Luckily, there are a few strategies you can employ to get you to the finish line happy and injury-free.
Transfer or Defer1 of 7
In some instances, your best bet is to see if the race offers transfers or deferrals. If a deferral is offered and you'd rather run the race on full training, you can wait to race until the following year.
Otherwise, a transfer to a shorter distance (if the race offers it) is a great way to still participate in the event, but not run a distance you aren't prepared for. For example, if you registered for a full marathon but aren't quite in the shape for it, see if the race will allow you to drop down to the half marathon or 10K. This is a great way to still participate and finish with a medal.
Try a Run/Walk Method2 of 7
If you are a runner, try the run/walk method. Many racers employ the run/walk method during races of all distances and finish with more than enough time to spare. This method allows for various ratios of running to walking. By figuring out what ratio works best for you (and sticking to it), you can finish your race and avoid getting injured or skipping it altogether.
An example of a run/walk ratio could be five minutes of running and one minute of walking, repeated until you reach the finish line. It's different for everyone, however, so make sure you do what is right for you.
Make sure to stick to your allotted run and walk time periods for the duration of the race, stay to the right side of the course and raise your arm when your walk break begins so that no one runs into you. This method will come in handy when the mileage ticks up and you become fatigued.
Find a Friend to Run With3 of 7
Rather than racing full speed ahead, find a friend to keep pace with you and enjoy the camaraderie along the way. By running with a friend, you'll be more inclined to slow down your pace and avoid overdoing it.
You could even start in the very back and really get your money's worth by taking your time along the course. Just be sure to stay within the race time constraints.
Progressive Training Run4 of 7
Another strategy is to view the race as a progressive training run. Begin this race as you would a training run and slowly increase your speed. Depending on your experience as a runner, this can be used for many distances.
Line up farther back than you normally would, and use the first few miles as a warm-up. They can even be walked, if you prefer. The key is to build into the run to avoid overdoing the first several miles.
Walk the Aid Stations5 of 7
Most races offer aid stations along the course for water, sports drinks or other forms of running fuel. A good strategy to avoid running too hard while undertrained is to walk the aid stations. These aid stations will allow you to bring your heart rate down and stretch a bit before continuing. This is a great method if you want to finish but know you just aren't quite ready to run the full distance.
DNF (In this Case, Do Not Finish)6 of 7
While the three little letters are often dreaded in the running community, this can actually be a strategy come race day if you aren't prepared to go the full distance. Again, think of the race as a training run and only run as far as your training will allow.
You won't get your finisher medal, but you will get to run along the course with other runners and enjoy the on-course refreshments you paid for. Plus, you can cheer on your friends and enjoy a group meal after your efforts.