Scheduled or Spontaneous Race Planning

Race planning is an experience! For some, the excitement over a marathon comes right at the start when trying to find out about a particular race. My habit is typically to find a race that fits my schedule and interests. Once I have it, I start to read reviews, check weather reports, look at elevation profiles, look at photos and results from previous years and really get excited!

When it comes to the actual planning, many marathoners are very scheduled. They know exactly what they are looking for in a marathon and they can select it far in advance. Others are more spontaneous. There have a few marathons where I was very scheduled, but for the most part, I am a spontaneous race planner. I may hear of a race from someone or a work trip comes up that puts me in the area of a race at the time of the race and that is how I select that particular race.

Scheduled Race Planning

Some advantages of being a scheduled race planner is that you can train accordingly and specifically. You can set up your entire schedule (16 weeks or longer) to be targeted at that marathon. You get to get a jump on the reservations for your trip and get the (potentially) best prices on air and guarantee rooms at the host hotels. You can also really know almost everything you can find about the city and marathon.

There aren’t a lot of negatives when it comes to being scheduled. 🙂 However, one negative that comes to mind is that if you were to get injured in the crucial weeks of planning (or very sick). If you missed a couple of weeks of training in the peak weeks or taper weeks of your training schedule, it could really throw off your scheduled goals. That can be very demoralizing!

Spontaneous Race Planning

Some of the advantages of spontaneous race planning are: your race schedule can actually fit in with a potential work/vacation schedule, you can pick a race spur of the moment without have to worry about the details, you can run a race with having a specific goal in mind, you can let award miles dictate your racing schedule (a post about this coming up, I promise!), and these are just to name a few. I really like spontaneously planning to run marathons since I am not that patient and by running a marathon spontaneously, I get to have the chance to enjoy the race/competition/sights without having to get bored during training. Another positive about the spontaneous race planning is that it makes the runner have to be in relatively good running shape at all times. This helps the runner not be lulled during the off-training time.

Some negatives about the spontaneous race planner is cost of travel can be higher when the date is closer, inability to plan a PR race based on training, injury can occur if caution is not exercised during training, and the runner may not ever realize their racing potential if they only run races spontaneously.



So, what type of runner are you normally? My spontaneous racing nature is what dictated my Iceland marathon choice and what has me on the verge of another marathon choice. This will be coming soon – should prove to be yet another interesting race! 🙂

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • I’m a mixture of both. There are some big races, like Chicago that you need to plan for ahead of time or you wont be able to register.

    I will plan spontaneous marathons when theres a good flight deal or MR opportunity. This year, it happened to be the Santiago marathon using the mistake fare from AA in business class. After i got it booked, i felt much better after missing out on the $300 fare from JFK to SCL a few months before that.

    I haven’t had much luck this year finding MR marathons. Maybe in Nov/Dec timeframe i’ll be able to find one.

    • You are absolutely right. Santiago sounds cool! Where about are you located and what airline are MRing for? I am assuming AA? I find that November/December can be good for Southeast Asia.