The Benefits of Tune Up Races

When I signed up for the 10k race that I ran a few weeks ago, it just so happened that it fell at a perfect point in my training schedule which made it a tune up race for my upcoming half marathon. I thought it would be beneficial for all of us to learn a little bit more about tune up races so I asked Laura to help us understand the how, what, when and why! She is so insightful and explains things so well  — Thanks Laura for today’s post!

Hi everyone! Today Meredith has graciously let me step in and post for her. Over the past few months, I have worked with Meredith as a running coach (she won a giveaway over at my blog, This Runner’s Recipes). Meredith is such a gifted and disciplined runner that she makes coaching easy, and I am so excited for her to race the Long Island Half Marathon in a few short weeks!

As many of you recall, Meredith ran the Aspire 10K race as a tune up race for her half marathon training. So today I want to talk about tune up races, their role in training, and how to use them for each distance.

benefits of tune up races

Tune Up Races Aren’t Just for Marathoners

The most common scenario for tune up races are marathoners signing up for a half marathon 4-6 weeks out from their marathon. However, 5K, 10K, and half marathon runners will benefit from tune up races as well!

Always opt for a tune up race shorter than your goal race. So 10Ks are the ideal tune up race for half marathoners and 5Ks are optimal for 10K runners. 5K runners will benefit as well from 5K races, which have a short recovery time and can be race more frequently. Regardless of the distance, you should run your tune up race approximately 4 weeks before your goal race.

Tune Up Races Double as Speed Work

In the week leading up to your tune up race, swap your normal speed or tempo workout for the race. A tune up race will serve as your speed work for that week, and taking an additional easy day will save your legs a bit for race day.

Tune Up Races are Practice Races

Marathons and half marathons require fueling and hydration plans. As much as you can (and should) practice your fueling and hydration during your long runs, a race will help you assess how well your pre-race breakfast sits on your stomach during hard running and pre race nerves.

Tune up races are also the ideal time to practice your race day outfit and any fuel belts that you plan on wearing on race day. No one wants to chafe during their marathon or half marathon, so test your new outfit in a 5K or 10K first.

Many runners suffer from pre race anxiety and nerves. The more you toe the line for a race, the more accustomed you are to the adrenaline you will experience. Tune up races help you deal with pre race nerves so that anxiety does not defeat you on the big race day.

What Tune Up Races are Not

Tune up races are not peak races; the longer race you are training for is the peak race. The workouts and weekly mileage in training prepare your body for a specific “peak” at the end of 12-20 weeks. So, for example, if you are training for a half marathon, you should be completing workouts specifically for the unique physiological demands of a half marathon. When you do a 10K race along the way, you will not be in peak shape for the 10K, which requires more speed. Adjust your expectations for the race, knowing that while it may be a PR, it may not be as fast as you would hope.

Tune up races are also not your peak race in the sense you should not race 100% in them. You do not fully taper for tune up races and you resume a normal week of training afterwards. Pushing yourself to your absolute limits in a 10K race may detriment your training.

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Laura also contributed to my Finding Balance posts a few months ago:

Finding Balance Between Our Diets & Workouts Part One

Finding Balance Between Our Diets &Workouts Part Two


Do you include tune up races in your training?

How do you manage race days nerves?

Are they any other racing topics in particular you would like to see covered on the blog?

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  1. says

    I don’t race much, so I don’t really do tune up races. I more incorporate races (that I hopefully am not paying for, as the ones that I pay for often end up not happening) into long runs. But I have many clients that I incorporate races into their schedules, or at least race like workouts.
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…Empowering Others Empowers MeMy Profile

  2. says

    Hi Laura! I think it’s so hard for me to not be all out competitive for tune up races. I tend to do everything with an all-or-nothing mentality, so I’d go all out even if I hadn’t trained for that specific distance. Ooopsie doodles! Ha ha. I know, shocking right? Nooooo.
    Suzy recently posted…Week in Review: LettersMy Profile

  3. says

    In my marathon build up, I have run two half marathons, both of which were great experiences. My last one I PRed and it was a huge confidence booster. Actually after that race I considered bumping down from the marathon to the half because I wanted to PR again. However I’m not going to do that because I want to run a marathon hahaha
    I think one thing people need to realize is that after a tune up race, you need to recover appropriately because it is still a race and your body responds appropriately. That is one thing I made sure to do this time. Last year I got injured after I ran a hard race and then kept training.
    Ellie recently posted…Week In Review [Short and Sweet]My Profile

  4. says

    I have found that jumping into shorter races is a good way to get in some speed work for the week. I haven’t had a goal half or marathon in couple years but finally got back to sub 2 hours this spring and I think taking on 5K and 10K’s helped that (have PR’d each and then PR’d again over the past few months!). I will say I have to be careful when using it as prep for a goal race since even when not in a racing mood I tend to cross the start and go for it.
    Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat recently posted…Queens Half Marathon RecapMy Profile