Adding Warm Up Races to Your Marathon Training Plan - My how to guide!

Hello everyone!  

I hope you’ve all had a great weekend training and all is going to plan, let me know.. how it’s all going? 

We are slowly moving towards what I like to call half marathon season, there are so many half marathons coming up in February, March and April, which provide perfect warm up races for those of us doing a Spring marathon. 

The trouble is though, how do we fit these races into our current training plans? Which ones should we run? Do we need to change our plan around to cater for them? How fast should we run them? 

This certainly poses a lot of questions, so here’s my advice! (As always please feel free to comment below with your thoughts and ideas as well) 

How many warm up races should I do? 

Like so much in running, there is no right or wrong answer here.. but if I had to give my advice then I’d say two warm up races would be perfect. If you are training for a marathon then I’d say two half marathons, or a half marathon and a 20 miler. For me a 10k is a bit short for a race during a marathon training cycle, but you could certainly race a 10k then add some extra distance on before or after to hit your distance goals for the week. 


Try to avoid anything in the last four weeks before the race, as here you’ll be wanting to get your final long runs in and start the taper. Ideally you’d do one with about 8-10 weeks to go and one about 5-6 weeks to go.  

Any recommendations? (With spaces remaining, sorry just UK only.. I can’t do a calendar for the whole world!) 

Worthing Half - 10th February - 
Hampton Court Half - 17th February - 

Surrey Half - 10th March - 
Reading Half - 17th March - 
Bath Half - 17th March - 
Fleet Half - 17th March - 
London Landmarks Half - 24th March - 

Great Stirling Run - 28th April - (ideal for those running the Edinburgh marathon which is later in the year) 

How fast? 

It’s always tempting to want to run every race flat out but bear in mind the recovery time needed to do this and keep telling yourself that the bigger goal is the marathon you are training for. My suggestion would be to race one half marathon at full speed and if you are doing another one then use it as a training run to practice your goal marathon race pace.  


I would suggest practicing your marathon fuel strategy during your half. I’d recommend a gel every 30-40 minutes during the race, plus sips of water around every 15-20 minutes.  

What are the benefits? 

Practice practice practice. You can get familiar with running in your race kit. You can practicing taking on fuel and running plus running with others around you. Getting your body used to running at a certain time of day, and trialing your breakfast as well. Plus dealing with race day pressures and nerves, these races can be great confidence builders. Running races isn’t something you just know how to do, it takes practice and if anything doesn’t go quite right then you can figure out how to fix it so it doesn’t happen during the marathon. Dealing with water stations, learning to pace yourself and perfecting the finishing kick at the end. 

Does Parkrun count? 

Well as we all know Parkrun is not a race! But it is a brilliant way to practice your race day routine of arriving at the start line in the best shape possible. 

What changes should I make to my training plan? 

Before - If you are going to be losing a few miles on the weekly total because of the race, then don’t worry. A few miles over the course of hundreds in the whole plan won’t make any difference. Thursday / Friday keep the intensity low and rest the day before if that’s your usual plan. If not then a few easy miles will be perfect. 

After - If you have given your race a hard effort, take a rest day the following day.. possibly two days if you’re feeling extra fatigued. If your training plan usually calls for speed work on Tuesday then I’d suggest doing an easy run instead and moving the speed session to Wednesday or Thursday. If you used the race as a training run, I’d suggest having a rest day, then carrying on with your plan. The golden rule is listen to your body and how are you feeling on the day. 

Anything else? 
A marathon training cycle is a long time, usually 16-18 weeks. If you have nothing but one race at the end it will be pretty dull. Having a couple of races really helps break up the routine, gives you something to look forward to and keeps running fun. 

And finally.. 
With any training plan, the likelihood of running every run on it to plan is pretty much 0%. I’d say that if you hit around 80% of your planned runs and concentrate on getting your long runs in then you’re in for a good day come race day. Don’t panic, no training plan is perfect, life isn’t perfect, be flexible and adapt to what you want to do. We are all running for our hobby at the end of the day, there is no prize money on the line, our jobs don’t depend on it.. have fun, smile and enjoy the process! 

Have a great week everyone! 

Ben ParkesComment