Training Tips for Challenge Races

The recent increase in the number challenge type races (multiple races over several days) means that runners have even more options for lots of miles and lots of medals. It can be not only a rewarding experience but also tough if you haven’t prepared well during your training. I’ve completed several different race Challenges. All of the events I have run included a half and some other combination of 5K, 8K, 10K either the day before or right after. My longest distance challenge was Gasparilla which included all 4 distances over two days: the 5K and 10K on Saturday and half and 8K on Sunday.

Here are some tips for training for and reasons to run a challenge race. Hopefully these will help you when deciding if a Challenge race is for you.

Back to Back Long Runs

These are a must!! You have to learn how to run on tired legs. I chose to run distances similar to what I would be facing in the race. For Gasparilla that meant we started at 5 miles on Saturday and 6 on Sunday and worked our way up to 10 on Saturday and 16 on Sunday.  For most Challenges where you may have a 5K followed by a half, you may not need to do that. I found I was prepared to run a 5K/half challenge with just my normal half training plan. For anything over a 5K as one of the two race, I would recommend running back to back longs.

Slow it Down

For us, it was all about completing the mileage. There was no talk of racing any of them. We wanted to find a pace that we could finish all the races in the time limits we needed to in order to receive the challenge medal. The only time crunch was finishing the half under 3:00. The rest of the races, there was no time pressure. Some people run them differently. They want to race them. Plan your training accordingly.  For some of the 5K/half challenges, we’ve picked one of the two races to actually race.

Time To Train

With most challenge race training, the number of days that you run will increase. The back to back long runs are going to have you running and away from from family on weekends more than if you were training for just a half by itself. But, most challenge race training is no different than training for a marathon.


Speaking of a marathon… Depending on what kind of challenge race you choose, the training can be good practice for if (or when) you run a marathon. Lots of runners like to try out higher distances slowly and a challenge race is a great way to bridge the gap from a half to a marathon. Same can be true for Dopey (a bucket list race for me) from a marathon to an ultra distance.

They are FUN!!

The theming around lots of the challenge races is super fun!! Most offer extra medals and incentives for finishing all of the races. The Double Dare medal for completing the Flying Pirate half and First in Flight 5K is awesome!! We received a finisher’s jacket for Gasparilla.  There is also a lot of camaraderie among challenge runners during the races. Usually challenge runners have different bibs, so it’s easy to look around and connect with other runners.medalpic

If you are interested in running a challenge race, here are some of the ones we’ve found so far.  If you know of others, please share!!  We are always looking for a new race challenge!

Challenge Races

I’m only listing the some of the races on the East coast due to where I live.  I’m sure there are great challenge races on the West Coast; I’m just not as familiar with them.

The mac daddy race: Dopey (marathon, half, 10k and 5K over 4 days)

The bit tamer, Goofy (marathon and half)

Flying Pig 3 Way (5K, 10K, half) or 4 Way (5K, 10K, marathon)

Double Dare Challenge (5K and Flying Pirate half)

OBX Marathon challenges (3 to choose from: 5K/half, 8K/half, 8K/Marathon)

Shell Yeah Challenge (5K and Crawlin’ Crab half)

Shamrock Marathon Challenges (Dolphin: 8K and half or Whale: 8K and Marathon)  For speedy folks: King Neptune (8k with half and marathon)

April Fools Half Challenges (Fool: 7K and half or Jester: 11K and half)

Runner’s World Half Marathon Festival (The Hat Trick: 5K, 10K and half or Five & Dime: 5K and 10K)

Gasparilla Distance Classic (Mich Ultra Challenge: 5K, 15K, half and 8K Mich Ultra Amber: 5K, 15K and half or Mich Ultra Lime Cactus: 15K and 8K

Mainly Marathons (back to back half marathons or full, 5 to 7 days, multi-state)

Have you ever completed a challenge race before?  Any suggestions or tips to share?

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Go be awesome! 🙂


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13 thoughts on “Training Tips for Challenge Races

  1. Now I am curious where on the East coast you live! We’ve done most of those races…(not necessarily the challenges, but one of the races in the series). I don’t think running two races in one day will ever be anything I aspire to do, but the races that are spread over several days make for a great race-cation!

  2. I did the Mich Ultra challenge in 2013. At the end of the 8k when I was stretching and cooling down is when I decided I wanted to do a full marathon. One day I’ll do Dopey too!

  3. Pingback: Weekly Therapy: And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should | 30-Something Therapy

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