How To Run Back To Back Races

Two of my favorite races are in April–the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run and the GW Parkway Classic. I used to choose to run one or the other, but I love both so much I’ve figured out how to run back to back races. Since I’m joining the Friday Five link up hosted by Eat Pray Run DCMar on the Run and You Signed Up for What?! I’ll share my five main strategies.

Recovery For Back To Back Races

Last year the Cherry Blossom and Parkway Classic were on back-to-back weekends. This year they are two weeks apart (the Parkway Classic is on Sunday!) but I still put these same tips to work. 

1. Train for the harder race. The Cherry Blossom is known for being flat and fast, and it is–even if that 20 ft climb at the end feels like a mountain. On the other hand, the first 5 miles of the Parkway Classic has rolling hills, and there is another hill at mile 9 that many runners opt to walk. I try to make sure that my spring training includes hill repeats and hilly long runs so I am ready for the Parkway Classic, but I also do speed work so I can push my pace at the Cherry Blossom.

GWPC Elevation

Parkway Classic Elevation Profile (source)

2. Set different goals. Last year I set course PRs at both races, but my Parkway Classic pace was slower. That’s OK because every race is different and should have a different goal. The Parkway Classic course is hillier, the weather tends to be warmer, and my legs probably are still recovering from Cherry Blossom. After keeping a 7:52 pace at Cherry Blossom this year I am hoping to run the Parkway Classic at an 8:00-ish pace if my legs (especially my IT bands and sore calves … ) cooperate.

3. Take an ice bath or Epsom salt bath after the first race. On my way home from the Cherry Blossom we stopped to get ice for my post-race ice bath.

ice bath

I wasn’t really psyched for my first ice bath of 2015, but I knew it would help my legs recover from the hard effort I put in. If ice baths aren’t your thing, you can take an Epsom salt bath instead. (I wish they worked as well for me, but they just don’t.)

4. Stretch, foam roll, and refuel. With back-to-back races, I have to be careful with my post-race eating and make sure I am eating healthfully in the days between races. I also try to take extra time for stretching and foam rolling, and this year I managed to squeeze in a sports massage on the weekend between races.  

Ragnar Foam RollingRagnar–the ultimate back-to-back racing experience!

5. Take a few days for active rest and/or easy activity. When the cherry blossoms are still in bloom, my favorite active recovery after the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run is to take an easy run, walk, or bike ride to see them again.

Cherry Blossoms 2015

Wearing my Cherry Blossom race shirt for my day-after recovery walk.

Sometimes I’ll do a shake out run two days after Cherry Blossom, but this year I didn’t run until Thursday. (I did my strength routine on Tuesday and indoor cycling on Wednesday.) After that I was back to my usual routine, but kept my workouts on the easy side. 

So, that’s how I train for back-to-back-race, recover between back-to-back races and sometimes PR at back-to-back races. Do you have any other tips? 


Have you run back-to-back races?

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24 Responses to How To Run Back To Back Races

  1. Misszippy says:

    Great tips! Perfect timing for me with my two halfs coming up. My big focus will definitely be on a super easy week between the two, plus not going for a time at Harpers. Good luck this weekend!
    Misszippy recently posted…Two half marathons/one week apartMy Profile

  2. I love that these are two of your favorite races. Such helpful tips here! I hope to run one of those races one day with you!
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…Friday Round-Up: RIP Hard DriveMy Profile

  3. Steena says:

    I do a lot of back to back! I usually don’t run until Wednesday after the first race either. Having swimming to rotate into the mix of workouts helps a lot.

  4. This is great! Definitely will be using these these tissue between Nashville this weekend and Disneyland over mother’s day weekend. recently posted…Link Ups to JoinMy Profile

  5. Jennifer says:

    This is great, particularly #1. Last year my legs were not prepared for the rolling hills after back to back flat races. I’ll be missing the race this year, but hope to return in 2016.
    Jennifer recently posted…Friday Five – Blogs to Read IIMy Profile

  6. Wow, I’m impressed with an ice bath after a 10 mile race…I don’t usually break them out till 18 or longer. I’ve also switched to epsom salts, it works just as well without the pain πŸ™‚
    Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…It’s a BIG race, Go Run IT: Paris Marathon Race RecapMy Profile

  7. Great tips – I have shied away from back-to-back races but I’m finding more and more that given the timing of some I want to run that I need to be willing to go back-to-back. I’ll definitely be referring back to this post!
    Michelle @ Running with Attitude recently posted…April RunfessionsMy Profile

  8. I did back to back races last year, Cherry Blossom and Loudoun Half. It was tough but great. This fall I’m doing the RW Hat Trick, so that will be back to back in the same weekend. A lot of training this summer to prep.
    John @ run. geek. run(disney) recently posted…Five Blogs to Love: runDisney Edition | Friday FiveMy Profile

  9. Chaitali says:

    Great tips! I was thinking about the GW Parkway Classic this year but decided on the Pike’s Peak 10k instead since it’s so close to me. The GW Parkway classic is still on my list for next year though. Good luck at the race!
    Chaitali recently posted…Friday Five – useful blog postsMy Profile

  10. great tips! I thought about a race this weekend but opted to just chill and get my body ready for Pittsburgh.
    Mar @ Mar on the Run recently posted…Friday Five: Show Some Blogger LoveMy Profile

  11. I’m weird and really like ice baths!! Great tips! Thanks!
    Amy @ Mama Running for God recently posted…Lonnnngggg overdue updateMy Profile

  12. great tips- the ice batch sounds scary! I might start with the Epsom salts first.
    Mary Beth Jackson recently posted…Flat Skippy- Ready for Nashville!My Profile

  13. HoHo Runs says:

    I do quite a few back to back. I do mostly what you do (except I like a hot bath). I would add get some extra sleep, but in my case it’s easier said than done.
    HoHo Runs recently posted…Runfessions (April 2015 Edition)My Profile

  14. Pingback: The 31st GW Parkway Classic Race Recap - Got2Run4Me

  15. excellent tips and they clearly worked for you!! πŸ™‚
    Courtney @ Eat Pray Run DC recently posted…Rock Your Core – Final Week!My Profile

  16. I once made a bet with a buddy that I can run back to back races and boast that i can finish the second one in top form. Let’s just say that was the last time I made a bet on back to back race. LOL. And I agree on the ice bath. Not really comfortable, but totally helped with leg recovery.

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