For some athletes, the year is clearly defined. Road relays kick off the Autumn campaign, where runners begin to set down the foundations of endurance with a focus on the winter challenges. For many this will culminate in the cross country championships which notoriously are placed after Christmas. Kicking off with the county championships, these are followed by the regional championships, the National and the Inter Counties. Some athletes will also focus further ahead to an early spring marathon using the previous races as build up.
After a small lull in the proceedings (and those not marathoning) we move onto the spring Road relays again and the track season where again league races, open meetings and championships define the calendar. But what happens if you don't carry out this pattern? What indeed are your goals?
Many athletes will drift throughout the year happily playing around on the roads, trails and even ultras to keep interest and hold a purpose for training. But my feeling is that this is drifting. I feel even the recreational/club athletes, should follow a period of winter training by focusing on faster races and training. After all, racing any distance requires tolerance of speed, whether that is -5.00/mile or 7.00/mile+.
So my advice to all as we transition into lighter/longer evenings and warmer days, is think fast. Aim to use the summer to hone your speed. Focus on shorter distances. You don't have to train on a track to get faster. You don't have to race on a track to get faster. Try and revise your best times at shorter distances. Focus your training to carrying out this revision. Work on your tolerance of 5k speed and faster. Practise running fast. This doesn't have to be gut wrenching repetitions, with your heart bursting out of your chest. Many athletes of all standards can benefit from running a series of fast strides over 30-40m. They can be fun and enjoyable. They can easily be tagged onto a run or within a run.
In essence, don't look at the summer campaign as just being for the more experienced racers in your running circle. Use the summer for your own gains. Getting quicker will make a difference to your longer racing. Shaving a few seconds off per mile could be a huge PB/PR when it comes to an Autumn Marathon or a later goal the next Spring.
Don't waste the opportunity. Don't drift! Speed and running faster is for everyone!