This article is geared toward Marathon des Sables but is valid for any race with some adjustments and specific changes appropriate to the type of race and distance.
Marathon des Sables, once again, has been postponed. Originally scheduled for April 2020, the race was moved to September 2020 amidst growing worries and concerns over Coronavirus. As September approached, the writing was already on the wall and the decision was made to focus on April 2021 – everything will be fine then, won’t it!?
December 2020 soon came and with it, increased infection rates, new variants and despite the optimism of a vaccine, the world once again crumbled under the cloud of an ever-spreading pandemic. Christmas was cancelled and the new year unfortunately had nothing ‘new’ about it, it carried far too much of the old year.
January has been a disaster and the long-term view is not good. The world once again has been in a lockdown, some far worse than others. One thing is for sure, we are all a long way from ‘normal!’ So, it came as no surprise as events were cancelled all over the world.
MDS race director, Patrick Bauer, travelled to Morocco to assess the situation and on January 22nd, the MDS was once again postponed to another time; October 1-11, 2021.
I think it’s important to clarify, here and now, that at the end of the day, when people are dying globally, for a race to be postponed, is no big deal… I think once you accept that, dealing with race cancellation, disappointments and postponements becomes so much easier. It´s only a race! And we are fortunate to be able to race. It’s a luxury. But equally, livelihoods are struggling, RD´s are losing work, all the businesses associated with races are losing work, travel companies are losing customers, hotels, restaurants, design agencies, photographers, videographers and the list goes on, are all losing their livelihoods to an ongoing escalating pandemic. So while it is only a race, have a consideration for all involved and maybe, a little understanding for the very difficult challenges everyone is facing at the moment.
Taking MDS as an example, 2020 participants will have entered in 2019 and some may well have entered in 2018. Typically, a MDS participant will prepare for 1-year. While the initial postponement was not great, it was easy to focus on September.
Then September was cancelled… Already, many were struggling to re-focus, but April would be it, one last push and we are good to go!
Now, with another postponement, MDS runners are left in a void, the race is 8-months away. They are all asking, what do I do now?
When things change, adjust. Don´t kick-off against what has changed. Accept what is not in your control and control what you can. Adapt, move on (with running shoes) and train differently for a while; focus on different aspects of your running, weaknesses in particular. Look at the opportunities – focus on speed, work on hill strength, build a good core, do drills, stretch, maybe try yoga? A change of focus will give a physical and mental break and will help your performance. When the time is right, resume an appropriate training plan for your chosen race. I guarantee, you will be stronger, better prepared and ready for the challenge ahead. You are lucky and fortunate that you are able to even contemplate a race like MDS.
Uncertainty is a virus in itself, it can eat away at you. Quite simply, remove negativity and question marks. The current dates for MDS are 1-11 October. Do not consider the event will not happen, plan and train accordingly.
The reality is you are already in a good place. You have been training for a great deal of time already, just imagine how much better you will be when October comes.
Importantly though, it would be fool hardy to carry on with current training levels for an October race. You run the risk of injury and/ or getting peak fitness too early. Take a break!
“One of the mistakes I see most with runners is jumping from one race specific cycle to the next, without either giving themselves enough time between races or not “focusing” on training during the time between race and “taking a break”.– runnersconnect
Kick back, take some time off from any structured plan and do a week/ two weeks (or even a little longer) of ´how you feel´ training. In this period, take time (with a piece of paper) to assess personal strengths and weaknesses. From this list, you can use February and March to address these weaknesses while ´maintaining´ fitness. Back off any intensity, maintain some decent mileage/ hours and keep sessions moderate.
Importantly, get a running MOT from an experienced physio. Address any problems now and use that ‘extra’ time for therapy, strength, stretching and core. Find any underlying problems that may cause injury.
Work on admin – food for the MDS (article HERE), pack, sleeping bag (article HERE) sleeping mat and finalise equipment choices optimising weight, size and cost. Do everything you can to make your pack 6.5kg (plus water) for the start line on October 3rd. Read a guide HERE.
Do you need a 12-week and/ or 24-week Multi-Day Training Plan perfect for a multi-day adventure or a race like Marathon des Sables? They are designed to provide you with a structured weekly plan culminating in a target event.
View a sample week HERE from the 12-week plan. Purchase HERE.
View a sample week HERE from the 24-week plan. Purchase HERE.
The arrival of April will give you 6-months to race date. Now is the time to re-focus. Did you have races planned? If so (and they happen) maybe now they change focus and become preparation for MDS?
Use 3-months (April, May and June) to build on the weaknesses that you have worked on in February and March and lay the foundations for the key phase, July, August and September.
“One of the most common reasons runners hit a plateau is that they don’t work on their weaknesses between races, by focusing on your weaknesses now, you’re able to make progress long-term, even without training as hard.”– runnersconnect
July should be the start of a very specific MDS phase (12-weeks) where you fine-hone all the relevant skills to make the 35th MDS not only successful but awesome.
It is easy to feel deflated with another disappointment and postponement but look at this cloud with a silver lining!
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Choosing a sleeping bag for an adventure HERE
Fuelling for a Multi-Day like MDS HERE
Multi-Day Racing – It´s Not Complicated HERE
The Ultimate Equipment Guide to Desert Multi-Day Racing HERE
Top Tips to Better Multi-Day Running HERE
References Runners World and runnersconnect
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