In April, Amy Hastings pulled out of the Boston Marathon three weeks before it started because her training hadn't gone as she'd hoped. Her 2012 Olympic teammate Ryan Hall, in contrast, ran despite an injury-plagued buildup. He struggled to a disappointing finish in 2:17:50, almost 13 minutes slower than his best on the course.
Deciding whether to pull the plug on a race is never easy, and not just for elite runners whose livelihood depends on good results. No runner likes giving up entry fees, fitness, and the chance to chase a goal. But forging ahead is not always smart.
When training hasn't gone as planned, here's how to decide what to do based on the warning signs you encounter.
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Adjust Your Goals
If you miss a few weeks with a minor injury or illness, and then fully recover, you can still run your planned race with a revised time goal. You can afford to miss two weeks completely, or train at a reduced level for up to four weeks.
Similar rules apply if you have to miss training because of work or family commitments. As a rough guideline, slow your goal pace by five to 10 percent for at least the first half of the race. If you feel good at that point, you can pick it up.
If you've set a big goal and your training just isn't going as well as you'd hoped—you're missing your paces in workouts or having to cut long runs short, say—and you've ruled out possible medical issues like anemia, then it's a good idea to race. Resist the urge to bail on competing just because you're afraid you'll fall short.