Annual Race Planning: 5 Principles For Organising Your Race Calendar

It’s the time of year when I’m looking 12 months ahead, planning my race calendar and training cycles. Here are the main factors I consider when deciding which races to enter.

i find Race calendar planning to be a fine line between wanting to enter as much as possible and listening to the small voice in the back of my head, telling me not to overdo it. 

I’ve no idea how others manage their race calendar. I guess there are some who maintain a high level of fitness or endurance, and don’t have to think too far ahead. Me? I like to plan some races but find there’s a number of things to factor in before pressing that “enter” button. 


As someone who seems to be perpetually plagued by niggles or injury, you may want to think about how injury prone you are. Likewise, are you returning from injury? Do you need to be more tentative in your race choices? (um, yes!)

Don’t forget to factor in additional training to help keep injuries at bay during essential training cycles. Furthermore, my experience of long term injury is that it saps confidence. It always takes me a while to feel assured that an injury won’t return and I can train for longer (I wrote this post on how to return to running with confidence to help!).

I know from previous experience that if I demand too much from my body, injury’s likely. When considering my annual race calendar, or even looking 6 months ahead, there has to be some balance. Going from one marathon to another just won’t end well for me. 

At least, I don’t think so…


There’s quite a lot of information out there on Overtraining Syndrome (like this overtraining research from 1990).

Overtraining is characterised by increased fatigue and underperformance, precipitated by an increase in training stress or demand. (Here’s a good Runner’s World article on the signs of Overtraining Syndrome.)

I think this is where I may tip the balance. Looking back to 2017, I trained well and felt on top for the Roseland August Trail. While I was fit enough to complete The Eden Project marathon 7 weeks later, I was dog tired, emotionally drained for other reasons, and felt ready to drop. I don’t know if I overtrained. I know that I was fed up with doing it and wanted a break. 

Therefore when scheduling your race calendar, think about how much you can manage at any point. You may be someone who can go from one race to another, but everyone needs rest periods. These need to be factored in. 

Woman running St Mawes Seafront

Your Running Goals

One method that works for me is thinking about what I want to achieve running-wise over the next 12 months. What distance or type of race really appeals? There’s normally “a big one” in the diary.

For 2020 I’ve entered Man v Coast already but lots of us are on tender hooks for the London Marathon ballot. Mine you, there are plenty of good alternatives to the London Marathon out there.

Once I know what bigger distances I’m going for, I work all other races around it. So in the run up to the 23 miles in July, I’ll make sure I’ll complete a half marathon, although I’m itching to do Race The Tide in May. 10ks and other distances are likely to figure too. I’m much more flexible with these, and enter as and when. 

After completing the run I’ve been training for, I usually have some down time. Hence the next point…

Training Cycles

I’ve started to think of training in cycles, rather than having to sustain a certain level of fitness or endurance without any ending, down point, or extended rest period. 

Recently I’ve been listening to Primal Endurance on Audible, and there’s much talk of having at least 4 weeks rest after racing or competition. The rationale is simple: our bodies need time to recover and you’ll ultimately run for efficiently and avoid injury as a result.

Think of the shift in mindset too. The completion of a running goal, alongside a rest period, allows for fresh perspective and focus.

It’s a time to reflect and take stock on what has been achieved. Plus, after committing so much time to running, what could be better than having some time back, spending it with others, or exploring other interests? 

Race’s That Motivate You

Sometimes it’s a bit of a dilemma to choose which races to run. There’s the cost to consider, when they are, and whether they fit your goal or into your training cycle.

How to decide?

I can only tell you what I go by, and that’s a surge of excitement or feeling that I simply “must” enter. When I saw the promotional film for Man V. Coast, I experienced goose bumps and desperation to take part. Quite strange really as many of my friends looked at the film and questioned my sanity.  

A race that brings up these feelings doesn’t have to be the biggest run of the year. I like it when the thought of a race gets me going though, and motivates me to lace up my trainers.

So that’s it, my friends. These are the factors I consider when planning my race diary. It stops me from clogging up my time with too much training and allows me to rest properly afterwards. It’s a shame there are so many races, and so little time though. 

How do you plan your running race diary? 

Author: plbedford

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