One of the big categories to take a hit from the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 is marathons. We saw most of the big winter/spring marathons for 2020 get canceled and now, one by one, we are seeing more fall marathons cancel. While this is terrible news for the communities, runners, organizers, and races themselves, there could be a silver lining in all of this.
2021 Could See a HUGE Number of Marathon PRs!
A PR in running speak is a personal record. This is something we use when we are talking about our best time at a given distance. For example, my marathon PR is 3:29. You will see many runners list their PRs on their social media about-me portions.
With millions of people running marathons each year, it is a very popular sport. It is also difficult on the body since it requires weeks of training and then running the actual 26.2 miles at a pace that has been trained for but can still be difficult to manage for the whole marathon.
For example, an average marathon training program is 16-18 weeks and would have runners running an average of 40-60 miles per week (some runners run less, many faster marathons will run more). If we take 50 miles per week as an average, that means that a runner is running 800 – 900 miles in preparation to run that 26.2 mile race known as the marathon.
For many runners, the rush of the race and the achievement or maybe near miss of a goal pushes them to seek out another race and then the training for that. This adds up to some marathoners running 2 – and sometimes many more – marathons in a year. It is a good goal to train for but can also stress the body out a bit.
2021 Could Be a Great Year!
With that little background, now we have the point of this post – 2020 is about to see a large majority of marathons be canceled. This means many, many runners will not run an actual marathon at all this year. At the same time, many of these runners will do virtual marathons to help pass the time, keep them training, and just deal with the situation.
But it also means that there are a lot of runners that will have bodies that will be trained up, rested up, and totally ready to toe that marathon line! Runners are going to be excited, have a lot of adrenaline that will be fueled by other runners and crowds, and have been free from the grueling efforts of a PR-attempt in a marathon in 2020.
In short, this could mean we will see a lot of marathoners running their best races ever next year. Not only that, this could also mean that elite marathoners will run some of the best times ever, especially with the Olympics next year. It could also mean that the Boston Marathon for 2022 will be quite a bit harder to qualify for if runners are dropping even faster times.
How to Prepare for a Great 2021 Marathon Year
If you want to be one of those runners dropping a great PR for the marathon in 2021, here are some things that could help you out.
Set Goals Now
If you are like me, not having a race on the calendar means that sometimes you let runs be skipped due to schedules or maybe you don’t work as hard on a workout. But, this time is a great time to keep your base strong and even work on things like cadence (number of steps per minute), running posture, and speed.
So, pick something to work on and set a goal for it. It can be a 4 week goal or similar, it does not have to be a months-long goal.
Start Researching Races for Next Year
I know the tendency may be to pick the earliest race that you think will be actually run but be deliberate in your planning. Maybe you have some races in your area that can be the perfect tune-up races for your goal marathon so check out the local calendar first. If you have a local half-marathon, that can be a perfect race to use to judge your progress and work on your racing form so find that first.
Also, look at weather norms for your races as well as location. Find out which races may be the best for your comfort zone of weather. For example, if you are like I was for most of my life, your winter training will likely be in snow or on a treadmill. Picking a marathon in April/May that has 80+ degree averages may be a terrible idea since your body will not be acclimated to that yet.
Also, consider which races moved entrants from this year to next year. If that is you, you may already have a registration for next year! If it wasn’t you, you may find that those races will fill much quicker than normal.
Finally, doing all of this marathon research now can get you really pumped up for next year’s marathon!
Pick a Race Plan
If you normally use the same race plan, this could be a nice time to check out some other plans out there! I am partial to the Hansons Marathon Method. I worked with one of their coaches for the Dubai Marathon a number of years ago and even though I did not hit my goal in that race (got the stomach flu hard around mile 16), the training program was one of my favorite ones ever and prompted me to use their race plans from then on.
But, maybe you have a local friend that can suggest a different racing plan. There is plenty of time to try out a plan for a few weeks to see how it works at pushing you where you need it.
Hire a Coach
Coaches are not just for elite runners! They can be a great source of encouragement and motivation as well as tailoring your plan as you go. My coach had been a huge help during our communications, especially when I got a shin splint a few weeks into training. He worked with me to modify my training to work around that and to keep close tabs on how it was going. He even woke up early in the morning in the US the day of my race to track me in Dubai!
Coaches can really help you during these times of no races as well. They can motivate you along and keep pushing you to improve when there is currently no race goal to eye.
Run for Fun’s Sake!
Do not lose sight of running just for the fun of it! Without a race on the calendar, this could be a great time to just go for a run without a watch to enjoy the calm. It could also be a great time to go for some trail runs, especially since that can give your legs a rest from the pavement.
Maybe even work on some running bucket list like running the streets in your town, running a particular route that you have always wanted, doing some calendar challenge, or a number of other fun things!
Whatever it is, with most of us not having a marathon this year, it can be a great time to just put some fun back into the run!
From the elites at the front of the pack to the back, I think we are going to see some very fast marathon times next year. That could include you if you start planning for it now. Hopefully, some of these tips will help get you thinking about and getting excited for your first marathon of 2021!