Whippet Wisdom: All the races are cancelled. Now what?

By Dashing Whippets Coach Fred Hines

With the COVID-19 threat growing, spring marathons are rapidly being cancelled or postponed, along with New York Road Runner races and seemingly any potential substitute for an original goal race. Already anxious about the spread of a dangerous illness, many of us now also have the disappointment of a goal being taken away. As coaches we’ve put our heads together to share some tips for the unexpected racing desert that lies ahead.

  1. Use this time to let nagging injuries heal completely. There is no better time to do it! A silver lining of this forced racing hiatus could be that you get 100% healthy so you can train and race at your best later in the year. Even if you are injury-free, if you have been doing heavy training recently now is a smart time to back it off. Overtraining weakens the immune system, making us more susceptible to colds, the flu, and other viruses (think of that post-marathon cold so many of us get!). Exercising moderately is one of the best ways to boost your immune system, prepping the body to be 100% ready to fight off whatever comes its way and ensuring you will be ready to resume serious training later.
  2. Take advantage of temporary flexibility in your daily life if you have it. Working from home on a flexible schedule? On a day when it’s going to be a chilly 35 degrees at 7 PM, it might be a balmy 50 degrees at 2 PM. Take advantage if you can!
  3. Run-commute to avoid the subway. With the days getting longer and warmer, this can be a nice option during any spring season. Right now it brings the added benefits of social distancing, helpful for us and our fellow New Yorkers trying to get to work.
  4. Develop your mental strength as a solo runner. Some of us love running alone and others don’t. Either way, being able to focus and persevere alone is a skill that can serve us well in some race settings. If you are forced to do some hard workouts on your own, embrace the challenge and try to build your solo mental toughness. See if you can find strategies – from mantras to visualization to music – to help you push yourself when there isn’t a running companion or competitor to do it.
  5. Consider training as if this were off-season or pre-season. Typically, long-term training cycles progress from less race-specific activities in the pre-season (e.g. long slow distance, short top-end speedwork, hill sprints and strength training) toward more race-specific activities as we peak for our goal race (lots of race pace running!). Ordinarily if a goal race like the NYC Half or Boston Marathon were cancelled, a reasonable adjustment would be to try to continue those race-specific workouts to peak for an alternate race happening just a week or two later. With most or all spring races in jeopardy, however, our alternate races are likely months away. In that case, continuing peak-type workouts for months on end is more likely to end in injury than in a successful race. Instead, consider changing up your training significantly in what is now effectively a new pre-season. On nice days do some run-commuting to build your base. On rainy days stay home and do those runner-focused strength training workouts designed by Coach Emmi.
  6. Change gears. One way to accomplish the training shift described above is to temporarily step away from the distance you have been emphasizing and insert a block of training for a very different distance. If you were preparing for the Boston Marathon, now rescheduled for September, here’s an idea: switch to the Whippets 5k/10k plan (gently at first as it is challenging!) to give your legs a break from big weekly mileage and increase your leg speed. Jump into one of the spring track meets by MHRC, NBR or the Whippets (gatherings small enough they might not get cancelled) or race the Queens 10k or the Pride Run in June (late enough that large events might have resumed in NYC). You’ll feel speedy and refreshed when it’s time to resume marathon training in the summer. Have ideas or questions about what to do? Feel free to run them by the coaches!
  7. Remember the big picture. Running is just one part of your life. Take care of yourself and be intentional about finding new ways to stay connected with those you care about, even if it isn’t face to face. Don’t let social distancing lead to loneliness. And keep doing the things you love, including running!

–Emmi, Scott, Megan, Fred, Laura and 40

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