Running and ‘Craming’: Race day ready with not as much time as you would have liked

The results for the ‘cramming method’ when it comes to running are a pretty mixed bag. Admittedly there are those lucky few blessed with a fair chunk of talent and with minimal training can whip out a rather remarkable performance given the circumstances. That’s not the norm and I’d like to also point out that the craming method = the hazing method. Read as: be prepared to suffer the consequences by way of pain uncomfort and soreness. Hey, you have to pay the price some way!

finish line face man running

Trust me, he’s hurting, but I think he ditched the can’t beast at mile 2.


Running rewards the consistent and the hard-workers BUT there are circumstances where you’ve got less time than you’d like before race day and you want to do all you can to make the most of that time available. My most recent article for Competitor: ‘How to Get Race Ready in Four Weeks’ shares how to get the most bang for your buck in 4 weeks of training.

This article pertains to 5k and 10k races; generally the shorter races are a little easier to ‘gutt it out’ and surprise yourself with a better than expected race. True fact: you really can’t fake a marathon, even with months of warning…haha.

In getting back to running a race with a deadline looming, different scenarios will offer up very different prospects:

* Coming off of injury: We’ve all been there and if you’re injured early in the season, or during the point where you’d be doing the ‘meat’ of your training, you would be surprised just how WELL cross-training like a demon can prepare you for the race. Take your running workouts and just adapt them. By the time you get healthy enough to run, transition smartly and with even just 4 weeks of ‘real’ running you can have a really great race.
runner legs
* Running but not training: Say you’ve been consistent but not doing any real workouts or mixing up the paces. Then your 4 weeks of training will mostly be getting those legs accustomed to faster paces and the mental training component of embracing the hurt of training, it’s different from just straight running. The good news is that ultimately if you’ve been consistent and are not out of shape, you’re tuning up and you may not be in PR-busting shape after 4 weeks but you’ll be well on your way and then motivated to keep that momentum up.

* Slacker: Okay, got to call out the runners that show up after summer vacation to report to their schools’ teams having not run a single step. Here is where that nice hazing term comes in, I know of some runners who, having diligently trained over the summer, take a sick kind of glee in watching others pay for their slackerdom. Like I said, you have to ante up somewhere and usually slackers have to pay double for their little hiatus. That said, at least if you’ve been a runner you have the muscle memory on your side so with 4 weeks of actually focusing you could wind up at least not totally embarrassing yourself. Then just keep up the hard work and hopefully learn your lesson just once. 😉

Along with sharing the workouts that will give you the most bang for your buck (spoiler: threshold workouts) the article has a 4 week training program guide too. So if you’re looking nervously at the calendar, take a breathe (hopefully you’ve been cross-training! Hehe) and know that you STILL can make it to the start and finish line with your ego intact and have at least a respectable showing…and potentially a really awesome one! 🙂

1) Was there a time where you were on a time crunch for your race; what was the circumstance, how did your training end up going, and then how were the results?
I had been injured for pretty much all of one cross season but was able to get in some land runs and workouts a couple of weeks before one of the big races. Since I was really good with my cross-training I actually did PR, so again, don’t underestimate cross-training! 🙂

2) Was there ever a time you feel to slacker syndrome?

3) When is your next race and what are some of your staple workouts in your training?
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22 thoughts on “Running and ‘Craming’: Race day ready with not as much time as you would have liked

  1. I have been consistently training for almost a year now, so I haven’t had to cram. I would definitely be nervous about that prospect though. I like knowing that I have out in a long period of hard work, and the mental battle is certainly part of race day. It is good to know that you can still get results from some focused effort, but I am going to try to stick with my progression 😉

  2. I fall into the running but not training category. I’m working on that though – if I tell myself that I’m going to train, I’ll do it, but it has to be on my own terms. 🙂

  3. One of the worst racing experiences I ever had was in college. I wasn’t going to compete in cross country my senior year and then at the very end of the season the coach asked me to run. I ran a race that I was in no way ready for and it SUCKED!!! I told myself that I would never ever repeat that – even if it means not competing when I had planned to. I think it wouldn’t be so bad if I could just do it for “fun” but my idea of fun is to win!!!

  4. I am pretty new to training for races LOL however, I did cram once. For my first race ever which happened to be a 10K. I didn’t know what racing was supposed to “FEEL” like LOL then, I felt it, and loved it, but, felt like I was going to throw up at the same time. I finished in 50:43 w/8:11 pace. I am not sure how I pulled it off with next to no speedwork.

    2) As of this time, I am feeling like a BIG slacker. I has sprained my ankle 4 weeks ago and trying to get back into a training plan for another 1/2 marathon for the spring but, I just can’t get myself motivated. Any suggestions??
    3) My next race is 3/17/13 the New Bedford, MA St Patty’s day 1/2 Marathon. The staples of my training are 8 Mile tempo runs and 1600m dash w/800m jogs. I have been awful w/my Cross-training though 🙁

    • i’m sorry to hear about your ankle! but YES i do have tips for motivation: 1) remember that it’s tough sometimes for everyone, but remember wat ur goals are (races) and that you want to do well there 2) remind yourself how great you feel AFTER you do your runs 3) remember how crummy/guilty you feel if you skip a run. hope that helps!

  5. It’s great to hear your thoughts on cross training because I do rely on that when injuries lead me to cut back on running – and for personal preference, it makes up half of my workouts each week! I like to think it helps with running but sometimes think I’m deluding myself. It definitely helps with a base of fitness though, and means I can amp up my running focus quite quickly if needed.

  6. Oh definitely a planner, not a crammer, although I have realised that there are less than 6 weeks until the Cadbury Half Marathon now and I still haven’t booked accommodation…
    As for the racing, well Monday coming up is my first 16km run so we will see if I am still standing come Monday night. Kind of planned my long runs well because I am doing 21km on Christmas Eve (bring on the Christmas dinner) and my other long run on New Year’s Eve (bring on the champagne). Still a little nervous though….

    • you are too cute…you still have time to get that hotel room BUT if you cram on that end that’s not such a big deal, you’ve definitely NOT be cramming in the training, you’re doing so great. 🙂

  7. oo I feel this is right on point. I need to do a lot more threshold training and it feels like $hit.

    You know I trained for my last big one ;-). I’m a little lost right now, but I’m getting there.

    Great article! I’m so glad you linked to it.

    • thanks for sharing that one and glad you liked the article. 🙂

      you did freaking awesome on that marathon, and you’re not lost, you’re just getting acquainted with a different kind of training…and trust me, you’re kicking @$$! 🙂

  8. My next race is in two weeks!!!!!! also because of an injury I have not been training 🙁 Hoping that the week before the race I’ll be able to get back to it, but as of now not hoping for much for this race- just some fun! 🙂

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