Broad Street Run: What to Do If You’ve Slacked Off on Training

We ask a running coach if it’s possible to get race-ready fast.

So, say when bibs for the Broad Street Run went on sale back in February, you eagerly beat the rush, signed up and mapped out a training program. You were great in the beginning: You woke up at the crack of dawn on chilly Saturday mornings and banged out your long run, while keeping up with shorter evening runs during the week. Your endurance gradually built up and you were satisfied. Ten miles will be cake come May, you thought to yourself.

But then life happened. Evenings and Saturday mornings began filling up with obligations that trumped your workouts; without realizing it, the weeks just … slipped by. And now here you are, less than three weeks before the race (eeep!), and you’re wondering if you can really pull it off.

I talked to running coach Jack Heely, head coach at Great Strides Coaching, to find out how you can gauge right now whether or not you’re ready to run Broad Street, and what runners can do to pull it together before the race on May 6th. He says that while a training program of at least 10 to 12 weeks will get most recreational runners in shape (if they stick to it, of course), there may still be hope for those who’ve slacked off.

Heely says that a general indicator of race readiness at this point in the game is being able to run half of the distance comfortably—five miles in this case. “If you’re struggling to complete five miles right now, then there is probably not enough time to adequately address that prior to the race,” he says.

More specifically, if you have some running experience—say, you’ve been running regularly for at least a year—and you can handle four or five miles now with ease, you should be able to finish the race, if you can put aside more time to train these next few weeks. If you’re new to running and haven’t been keeping up with training you might want to reconsider: The race could be 10 miles of agony for you, and you face the risk of injury.

If you want to make up for lost time on your workouts, Heely says to start with figuring out why you skimped on training in the first place and address that problem so you can devote time to a consistent workout. Plan for workouts every other day with longer weekend runs of up to seven or eight miles. Consider adding walk intervals to your workouts if you’re having trouble: Alternate between four minutes of running and one minute of power walking. “This is a very effective strategy for new runners, runners coming off injury, or, as in this case, those making up for lost time,” Heely says.

Unfortunately, there are really no shortcuts for building endurance. Don’t overload on workouts in attempt to prepare yourself in little time; rest days are just as important as workout days for fitness improvement.

And let’s face it, if you haven’t been training as much as you had hoped, you probably aren’t going to win the race. So keep the pace manageable come race day. “A good method to determine ‘easy’ pace is the Talk Test: If you can talk while you are running, the pace is appropriate. If you are struggling to talk, slow it down,” Heely says.

It’s also important to listen to you body on race day and take advantage of the aid stations. And of course, it’s important to remember to enjoy the race, too. “Dont forget to have fun!” Heely says. “That’s the whole point of this. Feed off the crowd, and enjoy every step of the journey.”

Ready for the bad news? If you’ve gotten too far behind in your training, you might have to admit defeat and save the fun for next year. If you have not trained at all, there really isn’t enough time to safely train for the Broad Street Run, regardless of your experience or athletic ability, Heely says. Sure, you may be able to finish the race, but the risk is greater than the reward and chances are you’ll be pretty dang miserable. If you have been training, but only get up to two or three miles on your longest runs, you could give the race a shot, but you’ll likely face misery.

Bottom line: If you can’t comfortably tackle a five-miler right now, then you’ll want to consider skipping the Broad Street Run this year.

“Many people enter races with great intentions, but fall short on the training for a variety of reasons. If this happens, learn from it, and be better prepared for the next time, but don’t be discouraged,” Heely says. We’re lucky to have a pretty active running scene here in the Philly area, with plenty of other races coming up and dozens of running clubs you can join. How’s that for a silver lining?

>> Need more training tips? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Broad Street.

How has your training for the Broad Street Run been going? Do you think you’re ready? Tell us in the comments!