Taking the proper amount of time to train for a road race is essential for getting the most out of the event. The length of time required to successfully prepare will vary depending on your exercise experience, race goals and weekly schedule. It's better to overestimate the amount of time it will take you to train rather than allow too little. A good, generous template is roughly one week for every mile in the race, but read below for tips on how to further fine tune your training timetable.
Selecting a Distance
A marathon will naturally require a different training routine than a 5K, so your first step is to understand which type of race you want to run. Go for a few runs on your own to gauge what running distance suits you best and research races in your area in the coming months that fit into the category you select. If you're not looking to do a major distance, you can focus your workouts on more intense, shorter runs. Anything above a 10K is going to require extra time to build endurance and understand how to properly pace yourself on long runs. Once you've selected the particular race you plan on running in, be sure to research what the course is like. If it's hilly, you'll want to allow extra time to get in several runs specifically geared toward training yourself on hills.
Understand Your Experience and Goals
Consider adding an extra week or two to the one-week-per-mile training schedule if you're a running novice or haven't worked out regularly before. This initial period will get your body better used to cardiovascular exercise and get you comfortable with your form and breathing. Then determine what exactly you are hoping to get out of the particular race. Are you just looking to finish and say you completed a road race? If so, your training schedule can be slightly shorter than someone who's run several races before and is looking to beat a previous best time. If you fall into this group, add a few weeks to your training schedule. This will allow you to integrate several closely timed, higher intensity runs to help you reach your time goal for the actual race. You should also try to plan your training schedule to get in a few shorter distance road races in. This will serve as a dress rehearsal for your ultimate road race goal, by simulating a competitive environment.
Consider Your Schedule
In planning your training schedule, be realistic about how many times a week you'll be able to get out and run. If you're working overtime and can only run two to three times per week, tack on a few extra weeks to the template. If you're reaching for a long distance road race, you'll need to train regularly with similarly long runs, which you'll most likely only have time to do on the weekends. Give yourself time to rest up the week before the race, with only a few very lightly paced runs and plenty of stretching. You're not going to get any stronger or faster by pushing yourself too hard that last week.