Canceled Race? Here's How to Train

You've got a second chance at training. Use it to come back to racing stronger than ever.


After months of hopes, hard work and training, a cancelled race can feel like a tremendous loss.

"It is disappointing. It is hard," says Mike Sheehy, an Abbott employee, former U.S. Army Ranger and runner whose marathons were cancelled. "But the good thing is that the races will be back."

Translation: You just got a do-over, a second chance, an opportunity to shore up weak spots and put all of your "I wish I would have's" into practice when it comes to proper training.

"There are silver linings out there, and you have to keep looking for the silver linings," says Joan Benoit Samuelson, winner of the first women's Olympic marathon. She is currently training to earn her Six Star finisher medal in her sixth decade of life. "Somebody asked me the other day, 'Are you upset that all of your races have been thrown off?' And I said, 'No, not really.' It gives us all a time for pause to reassess our priorities in training and life. Maybe a time to give those nagging injuries a rest."

"As hard as it is not to be meeting up with friends in our sport, it has opened up new roads for sharing advice and encouraging each other. The creativity and communications that have resulted during these challenging times keep us motivated to achieve the goals we set for ourselves. Think of it as extra training. While enduring this pandemic I believe that we become stronger in mind, body and spirit."

Here are four ways to get the most out of your second chance:

1. Look to the Back Burner

During intense race training, it can be hard to get to everything you know you need to do. But a cancelled race opens up the schedule. "So now that you don't have those 40- or 80-mile weeks, you have a little extra time," says Pamela Nisevich Bede, RD, a sports dietitian and member of Abbott's nutrition scientific and medical affairs team and a 24-time marathoner. "What have you been putting off?"

Nisevich Bede explains that, for most runners, strength training, flexibility and mobility spend a lot of time chilling on the back burner. "Or maybe you’re like me and need to actually work on your core for a change," she says.

As you wait to pinpoint a new race date, turn your attention to these training areas you typically neglect. It can help you build a stronger, faster, more injury-proof base so that, when it's time to ramp up mileage again, you're in the best position possible, she says.

2. Recover

Runners also love to put off rest, and at the end of a training cycle – even an abbreviated one – is an optimal time to schedule some dedicated recovery.

"As runners are training hard and getting fitter, they are climbing the mountain," says Liz Yelling, a double Olympian, Commonwealth medalist and running coach. "Their best races are going to occur once they hit the peak, but they need to journey back down the mountain before making their next ascent."

So, after going hard during take 1 of race training, take some time to rest before kicking off take 2. Good strategies include reducing miles or speed, spending more time in active recovery workouts or reducing total training volume.

3. Cross Train

A cancelled race or postponed marathon gives you time to pursue some other sports. For Sheehy, Nisevich Bede and Benoit Samuelson, that means cycling.

"Because I don't have a targeted race now, I'm doing a lot of cycling, and always tout the benefits of cross-training," Benoit Samuelson says. She explains that whether it's cycling, swimming, yoga or anything else, having a second sport will make you a stronger, healthier runner.

"I must say, the bike is growing on me," she says. "I prefer the running, but I'm getting a better workout on the bicycle because I can spin it at a much faster cadence than I can place my feet. I'm probably cycling three days for every day I'm running right now."

4. Review Your Nutrition

You've heard the advice, "no new nutrition on race day." But if you were heading into your race feeling like your nutrition and hydration weren't where you wanted them to be, now's your chance to dial things in.

To move your everyday, pre-, intra-, and post-race nutrition in a positive direction, it can be helpful to think through how you felt throughout your training.

"When our bodies are constantly tired, when we're sore, when we don't look forward to our workout like we used to, that's a sign that our nutrition strategy needs to change," Nisevich Bede says.

For most runners, that involves a greater focus on whole foods, protein and hydration. "About 50 percent of athletes show up to their workouts dehydrated," she says.

Abbott is the title sponsor of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, a series of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world: Tokyo Marathon, Boston Marathon, Virgin Money London Marathon, BMW BERLIN-MARATHON, Bank of America Chicago Marathon and TCS New York City Marathon. Click here to learn more.