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#SayItWithSweat Guide to Races


Posted by Robbie B under Running, Ultrarunning on 10 January 2014 at 12:00 AM

New Year's Resolutions are easy to make: I'm going to win the London Marathon, break 10 hours for 100 miles and take the Queen out for dinner at a Wimpy (she'll get the frankfurters, obviously).

Resolutions made, it is that easy, right?

But what's this? Tribesports want us to #sayitwithsweat? Well, that's a different story… so how do you motivate yourself to get sweaty all year round?

Robbie Britton #sayitwithsweat

Making resolutions is easy; sticking to them is a much bigger challenge than we all let ourselves in for. That's where a few running races planned throughout the year can come in handy.

As a runner, setting goals for the next year is an important ritual that gives training impetus, gets you out of bed on a winter morning and keeps you pushing when it is raining cats and dogs and no one else has turned up at the track. 

Robbie BrittonA lot of people take up running to get fit but without a few races on the horizon it can be difficult to maintain motivation and to keep improving fitness. With racing the fitness is a by-product and it can be quite enjoyable too.

I entered my first race as a bet with a friend and I remembered that every time I had to train in the rain as I had to beat my mate Smithy or I would never hear the end of it. Getting a few people involved can create a race within a race and you can even make a weekend out of it, visiting a new city for a marathon, to see the sights and reward yourselves afterwards!

So what races to book and why? Not every race can be the main aim, you have to mix it up and keep your mind interested during all the punishment you put in during training beforehand! 

Here's some ideas:


Something out of your comfort zone and to get your legs moving real fast, like a dog chasing a car down the street! This will have to be shorter than your usual distance but everyone can do it. If you're a 5k runner then get an 800m race organised with some mates or down to an open track meet, a marathon runner can go for a 5 miler and ultra-marathon runners still need speed, that's why I have the Canterbury 10 race at the end of January, to make sure I put in some hard work in the first month when it is dark 85% of the day.


We cannot forget one of the benefits of running is the great community that builds around the sport and keeps many people coming back for more. Luckily for ultra-marathon runners we can do a multi-day race and see everyone in the evenings for dinner and maybe a cheeky half, which is one reason I will be at the XNRG Pilgrims Challenge in February. Racing shorter distances doesn't mean you miss out, just get involved in a series of races and see the same people each week or month and try to beat that chap who outsprinted you to the line last time.

Spartathlon - ultra running community

Race Pace Efforts:

People stick a lot of time into running long in their training but it isn't always in your benefit to stick endless miles in at the weekend and tire out your muscles for the week ahead. Having your long runs to coincide with races every 3 or 4 weeks doesn't mean you have to go all out, but it does mean you have company, you will have checkpoints and it can give you a target for where you want your training to be. Spring 20 milers are common for marathon training and there are a good few around so get signed up to one and run as you would on marathon day, practice eating, drinking and pacing, happily knowing that your finish is 6.2 miles earlier!

Mud/obstacle races:

Running is serious right? All about getting from one place to another as quickly as possible? If it isn't flat, tarmac, dry and clearly marked then it is pointless... Every race should be fun but some more than others. Make the most of our lovely winter weather and get REAL muddy. There are plenty of events around that involve getting neck-deep in bogs, jumping over walls and losing the odd shoe, when the main joy is getting a hot bevvie at the finish line and laughing at the state everyone gets into. Get involved, you might enjoy yourself!

Mud and obstacle racing

Your "A" Race:

Many people have one big aim for the year, normally a big marathon or ultra where they want to hit a Personal Best (PB). You might have a couple of A races throughout the year but it is worth planning your other events around these, each with a purpose towards the A races.

Robbie Britton GB ultra runnerCompetition is something that drives me in my races and training, the Transvulcania Ultramarathon in May just so happens to be the first of the SkyRunning series this year. Competition will be high but I know I cannot slack before this event so I'll have to do the hard work beforehand. 

Where a PB is a target you have to learn from past experiences and use those to drive and structure your training. Looking at past races is essential if you want to grow because finding excuses may make you feel better but it won't make you faster. Look at nutrition, pacing, training, electrolyte levels , hydration and any number of things that could have slowed you down. Being experienced isn't about doing lots of races, it is about learning from your mistakes and growing stronger because of them.

Ultimately it is that finish line feeling that I will always crave, the knowledge that you've given your best and done something that really wasn't easy. That feeling is what gets me up on a Monday morning at 5:30 to get on the trails and the sense of achievement will be there for years afterwards. That and the shiny medals and free tops you get at the end of each one.