A blog by runners. For runners.

Training for back-to-back races (during the same weekend)


Race weekends are popping up all over. What’s special about these weekends is that each race is at a different time – giving runners the opportunity to race multiple events in one weekend. Some are even organized challenges, so runners earn an extra medal – and bragging rights – for completing all of the races.

Disney pioneered the trend with Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge nearly a decade ago. The challenge consists of a half marathon on Saturday followed by a full marathon on Sunday. Disney now hosts several other challenges — including the Dopey Challenge consisting of four races in four days for 48.6 miles.

Other races are following suit. The Shamrock Marathon has a Dolphin and Whale Challenge – an 8K on Saturday followed by a half or full marathon on Sunday, respectively. While there’s no official challenge, the Runner’s World half marathon schedules the 5K, 10K, and half marathon — known as the hat trick — at different times so runners can participate in each event.

Racing two or more times in one weekend means you have to approach training a little differently. Follow these tips:

  • Do two longer runs per week on back-to-back days. This means you’ll peak at 10 miles on a Saturday and 20 miles on Sunday, for instance, if you’re training for a half and full marathon. If you’re training for a shorter challenge, such as a 10K and half, you can get away with one long run per week but it’s still important to run two days in a row regularly.
  • Focus on distance, not speed. If this is your first back-to-back race, forgo the speedwork during this round of training. Doing two long runs per week will be rough on your body — don’t wear yourself out more by doing weekly tempo or interval runs, too.
  • Don’t go for a PR. For challenge newbies, it’s a good idea to stick with the goal of finishing rather than racing for a goal time.
  • …Or aim to PR in only one race. Seasoned runners may be able to PR in one of the weekend’s races. Some runners may do better PRing in the first race when they have fresh legs. Others may prefer using the first race as a shake out run, and PRing in the second race.
  • Follow the rules of training. You still need to follow the 10 percent rule, have cut back weeks, take regular rest days, and taper.
  • Be extra mindful about recovery. Stretching, ice baths, foam rolling, rest days, and easy runs have never been as crucial as they are now. If you want to make it to the race start, you need to care for your body throughout training. This also means paying special attention to nutrition before, during, and after runs, too.
  • Choose a flexible training plan. There are a lot of back-to-back race training plans floating around the internet. Be sure to choose a reputable one (Hal Higdon has a Dopey Challenge training plan, for example). Check in with your body throughout training. If five days of running is too much, replace a short, easy run with a cross-training session or rest day.

Once you make it to race weekend, be kind to your legs and rest as much as possible between races.

Has anyone ever run two (or more) races in one weekend?

Written by Jen Matz.