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Substituting a Tough Workout for a Race

BY Hal Higdon

If weather or the time of year is keeping you from completing a training race on your training plan, remain flexible. Although training programs work best if followed with some precision, sometimes we need to adapt those programs to face reality.

Have a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


If the training plan calls for a 5-K race, and there are no such races available on the weekend because of sub-zero weather and too much snow, what is suggested to do instead? I am in Week 3 of the Intermediate Half Marathon program.


Almost all of my training programs are calendar neutral. While I do offer a Winter Running program, where I suggest runners consider cross-country skiing or snowshoeing as options, I schedule most workouts without taking into consider that Mother Nature holds the trump card. Problems can arise also in the summer if a day on which a long run is scheduled dawns hot and humid.

No 5-K in your neighborhood? You can substitute a 3-mile run at or near pace for that race, but I concede that if the roads are covered with ice and snow, even running that distance as a workout may be a near impossibility, at least outdoors. Earlier in the same training schedule you are following, I prescribe 5 x 400 meters at 5-K pace. Also tough to accomplish in the snow. Better get out the snowshoes. Or do the workout on a treadmill.

Or juggle the days on which you do certain races or workouts. No 5-K this weekend? Maybe you can find one a weekend later, or the weekend before. Or maybe there is a 10-K race that can serve as substitute. Dare I suggest you jump on a plane and head for Florida or Arizona?

The bottom line is: Remain flexible. Although my training programs work best if followed with some precision, sometimes we need to adapt those programs to face reality.

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About Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for ‘Runner’s World‘ and author of 34 books, including the best-selling ‘Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide’. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that over a quarter of a million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks. Hal uses TrainingPeaks to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans — check out more of Hal Higdon’s training plans on his website.