Planning a Running and Racing Year


You have looked back over 2015 and decided what worked and what didn’t for you, haven’t you?


With that information, you have looked at your strengths and weaknesses and you have now started to plan 2016, you have haven’t you?

If the answer to the two above questions is no or maybe even yes, please read my thoughts on what you should be doing now in preparation for a great 2016 of running and racing.

In a previous post I questioned if ‘Base Training’ is something that you should be doing now? (Read HERE) This post was directed at experienced runners or ultra runners who have been in the sport for sometime and have already accumulated many miles and hours of running. They may not need more endurance but speed.

But planning is key. You need to periodise training so that you get the most from it. Below I go through a classic training program that has key phases for a successful season. It’s a classic training program that includes:

  • Base or Speed
  • Build
  • Maintain
  • Recover
  • Build
  • Race
  • Recover

Depending on experience, how this plan is put together is very much dependant on the individual. However, certain key elements should be present in any training plan and this article is intended to provide the basics from which you can develop a strategy that works for you. I must stress, for you!

Firstly, asses last year and understand what worked and what didn’t. This will give you a list of strengths and weaknesses.

  • Did you lack endurance?
  • Did you lack speed?
  • Was your strength and core weak?
  • Were you mentally strong?

The answers to the above questions will help you understand what your plan needs in the coming months.

Secondly, decide on objectives for 2016 and decide on A, B and C races. Put them in a diary and ideally have a wall planner so that you have an overview of the year. It’s easy to see how a year looks on a planner.

Set a timescale and work back from THE key ‘A’ race. In our scenario, we are saying that our key race is a 100-mile race, 28 weeks away.

Yes, it’s a long way off but don’t be fooled into thinking you have plenty of time. Key races have a habit of sneaking up on you.

Fancy an early season 2017 multi-day TRAINING CAMP? HERE


100-miles is a long way so *base training and getting the miles in is key. We have allocated 8 weeks for this in the plan below. Hours of easy miles progressively building up to a C race (marathon or 50k). It is always good to have a goal and a target to aim for. The C race is a training race and will have no taper, you would race through it as a training long run.

*A traditional pyramid training plan starts with base and then typically adds speed as an event comes closer. However, we are ultra runners and it is important to be specific. High intensity training creates a lot of fatigue and this is why I am a huge fan of reversing the pyramid and getting speed work done during the winter so that the training plan that leads into an A race is specific to the demands of the race.

So, if you are an experienced ultra runner looking to improve in 2016 with years of running and loads of endurance, think about making weeks 1-8 speed based with a fast marathon as a C (or maybe even A) race objective at the end of this block.

When you enter your racing season this will be in the build phase so it’s a good idea to place a B race objective that will allow you to progress to the A goal or multiple A goals.

As you come to the end of the build phase, you should be in form and race fit. What you want to do now is fine tune that form, tweak it and hold it for the A race. If you are cramming long runs in or looking for speed, it’s too late. You basically misjudged the planning or started training too late.

Maintaining what fitness you have is also about being specific to the A target.

  1. Is your 100-mile target race on groomed trail with little elevation gain?
  2. Is it an out-and-out mountain race with gnarly terrain and plenty of elevation gain?

It’s important to be specific now, the two races above require very different approaches. This is something that you will have understood in January (or earlier in the year) when you looked back at last year, looked ahead to this year and understood your strengths and weaknesses so that you could plan accordingly.

  • Scenario 1 requires running, good form and leg speed.
  • Scenario 2 requires hiking, climbing, leg strength and plenty of endurance.

You can’t perform well at every event and this is why A, B and C races are important. Yes I know the elite runners manage to race several key races a year but look at the training and look at the planning. We have all seen top runners turn up at early season races and place just inside or outside the top-10.

Rob Krar and Francois d’Haene provide good examples of how to:

  • Build,
  • Peak,
  • Win,
  • Recover,
  • Build,
  • Peak,
  • Win,
  • Recover,
  • Build,
  • Peak,
  • Win,
  • Recover.

In 1 racing year, both Rob and Francois won 3 x 100-mile races.

That is an incredible skill and for sure as racing becomes more aggressive, faster and more brutal, this training approach is going to become far more important for those who want to race to their own potential and maybe more importantly race year-on-year. We have all witnessed the damage that racing and training too much can do at an elite level runner. Listen to my podcast with Geoff Roes HERE as he provides a great insight into potential problems.

Ask questions such as:

  1. Do I race every weekend?
  2. Do I rest?
  3. Do I allow easy and recovery weeks?
  4. Do I cross train?
  5. Do I sleep well?
  6. How is my nutrition?
  7. Am I constantly tired?
  8. Do I feel alive and full of beans?
  9. How’s my resting heart rate?
  10. Is my pace good?
  11. How’s my strength?
  12. How’s my recovery?
  13. Do I have a plan?
  14. Have I structured my plan to an A race?

The above questions are a starting point. Read through the list and add your own questions to appraise what type of runner you are. It may well be that running for you is an escape and social thing, you may be happy to race week in and week out and you are not worried about gaining a PB or improving; if that is you, great. I’d still say planning some RnR is a good thing to avoid burn out.


If you are someone looking to perform and improve, you need to be more self critical. Plan your training and periodise your training so that you are able to (hopefully) predict good form on 1 or multiple A race days in a year. This is not easy.

Carefully plan your races in terms of importance, ‘A’ being the most important. Also make the races progressive and inline with your A race. For example, if your A race is a 100-mile race, a C race may be a marathon, a B race may be a 50K or 100K and then the A is the big step of 100-miles.

Remember you can only hold form for a limited length of time and if you want to peak, you need to make sure that this planning stage is done early so that you understand what you are trying to achieve. It’s all about stepping stones.

Ask yourself, what is the purpose of the training blocks you are planning:

  • Are you laying base training?
  • Building fitness?
  • Maintaining fitness?
  • Racing?

A training block with 2 x ‘A’ races (the 2nd race being 100-miles) may look like this:

Base Training Phase

Week 1 – Base or Speed

Week 2 – Base or Speed

Week 3 – Base or Speed

Week 4 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 5 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 6 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 7 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 8 – Base with C Race probably a marathon.

Build Training Phase

Week 9 – Build

Week 10 – Build

Week 11 – Build maybe a C Race just as a long run?

Week 12 – Build

Week 13 – Build

Week 14 – Build with B Race 50K.


Week 15 – Maintain/ Specific

Week 16 – Maintain/ Specific

Week 17 – Maintain/ Specific

Week 18 – Maintain/ Taper with A Race


Week 19 – Recovery

Week 20 – Recovery easing back into Build.


Week 21 – Build

Week 22 – Build

Week 23 – Build

Week 24 – Build

Week 25 – Build

Week 26 – Build

Week 27 – Taper

Week 28 – Taper and A Race (this scenario 100-miles)

Recover, Recover and Recover.

This article is not a hard and fast plan, it’s a guide for you to go away, look at your targets having assessed past targets and hopefully it makes you think about 2016 objectives so that you can plan for a successful, injury free year of running and racing.

How long should The Long Run be? HERE


9 thoughts on “Planning a Running and Racing Year

    • The first A race would be dependant on the runner, experience and objectives. For example, I use Rob Krar and Francois d’Haene as examples in the article, for them, it may well be another 100-mile race. However, for most of us, we would be building up to the 2nd A race (100-miles) and therefore the first A race would typically be a 50-mile or 100k race as a stepping stone to the longer 2nd A race.

  1. Pingback: Ultramarathon Daily News, Wed, Jan 13 - UltraRunnerPodcast: Ultramarathon News, Podcasts, and Product Reviews

  2. Pingback: BASE TRAINING for Ultra Running | – Photography, Writing, Talk Ultra Podcast

  3. Pingback: The Long Run – How long should it be? | – Photography, Writing, Talk Ultra Podcast

  4. Hello!
    How many km (or miles) should have each week? I mean, I am training for Transvulcania Half Marathon, so my hardest week should have 35km? 40km? 30km?
    Thank you

    • Very much depends on the individual and what experience you have. With trail and mountain races, best not to think about miles or km as tough courses will take longer. Transvulcania for example will take longer than a road half marathon.

  5. Pingback: Long Term Goal Setting and Planning for Ultra Running | – Photography, Writing, Talk Ultra Podcast

  6. Pingback: Planning a Training Week by Marc Laithwaite | – Photography, Writing, Talk Ultra Podcast

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s