9 Strategies for Runners Dealing with Cancelled Races

Life is different now. Races are cancelled. Training partners are left to their own devices. We are not living the same life we were a few short months ago.

9 Tips to Cope with a Cancelled Race
9 Strategies to Deal with Race Cancellations

If you were training for the New York City Marathon in 2012, then maybe you experienced this before. But for the most of us, this is totally uncharted territory.

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Below, I’m going to outline some strategies we can all follow (loosely or strictly) to cope and deal with the cancellation of our races and events. Keep in mind, there is no right strategy. What works for me may not work for you or anyone else. Take what works for you and use it until it doesn’t. Then find another strategy and use that one! Think of this like an à la carte menu: take what you like, leave what you don’t.

Full Steam Ahead!

If you’ve been slacking a bit, maybe it’s time to pick up the pieces and come together for some serious (non-racing) training. Here are a few things you can definitely work on if you are ready to get some training in.

9 tactics to follow when dealing with a cancelled race
Tips to help you keep your calm when a race gets cancelled

Work on your Weaknesses

We’ve all got a few things that we can work on to improve our running. Newer runners most likely have more weaknesses than experienced runners, but we all have something we can work on.

Personally, I’m focusing on extending my mileage and adding in longer runs and workouts. I’m also trying to not force a run – you know, when you plan on going 7 or 8 and it’s just not flowing, but you run 8 anyway? That’s what I’m trying to be more aware of.

What running weakness would you work on?

Work on your Strengths

One way to get ahead with running is to keep doing what is working for you. If you’re a good hill runner, keep doing hills. If being speedy is your thing, keep it up!

Whatever you are good at, you should keep doing it.

For me, I’m a strong runner who loves tackling hills. Since traditional speed work leaves me sore and banged up, I’m using hills as a substitute for track work.

Here are some posts I’ve made that will keep you healthy and happy:

Practice Racing

Since races have cancelled or postponed until the fall, they’ve moved to virtual races. These can act as great motivators to pick up the pace and put in a “race day effort”. I haven’t done a virtual race yet, but I am planning on attempting a fast mile. I had a nice streak of years under 5 minutes in the mile, so I may take a crack at that again.

Another thing I’m doing to keep myself competitive is finding Strava segments and trying to get in the Top 10. I went from 143rd to 3rd on a specific hilly segment in Haddonfield.

Find me on Strava

Time to Back Off!

Run for Stress Relief

There is zero judgement here if you need to start running to relieve stress. By all means, have at it. I think running is some of the best therapy there is! If you’re just coming to running by way of the couch, you’ll want to start slow and take the pace nice and easy. But if you’re coming to running from higher mileage, you will definitely start to feel like you’re not doing enough and stress out more. Be okay with getting by.

Maintenance Mode

Without any races on the horizon, now is a good time to downshift and re-balance your life. Maybe running was taking too much of a priority and you need to find your passions again. Maintenance mode looks different for everyone, but it probably consists of stressing less about your runs and instead focusing on enjoying each run.

Just Get By

I get it. Times are stressful. There’s a lot going on in everyone’s house: working from home, germs, homeschooling, etc. Maybe getting out for 1-2 runs a week is all you’ve got in you. That’s fine!

I’m not here to tell you how much you should run or how often – I’m not your coach, (yet), so you have to find that balance on your own.

Here are some posts I’ve made that will help you downshift and get back to enjoying running.

Maintain Current Situation!

This is really the middle ground of everything. Things have been going well for you, so just keep it rolling. There are always time to go back to what you’ve struggled with, but overall you are happy with where your training is.

Get Back to the Basics

Getting back to the basics is simple: start building a base again, add in stretching, strength training, warm up drills, and strides.

After you feel confident about your mileage with all easy efforts, you can then add in workouts – tempos, intervals, and speed work. Because you don’t have any race to get ready for, you can take your time and really focus on all the small details.

Tips to Deal with a Cancelled Race
Cancelled Race? 9 Tips to Cope

Be Flexible

There will certainly be days when you don’t feel like running – you may have had a bad night sleep or a work thing came up – now is the time to be flexible and adaptable. This skill will ultimately help you during a big block of training or when your big race comes, so this is a skill you definitely should be working on.

Races are cancelled, but running isn’t. Here are 9 strategies to help you maintain normalcy with your running routine.

Make Simple Changes

Now is not the time to go from 7 miles a week to 70. In such a short time period, your body won’t have time to adapt to the new stresses you are placing on it. Make small changes one at a time and see how you react to it.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Slowly increase your mileage
  • Add in strength training
  • Get more sleep
  • Do more yoga
  • Drink more water
  • Stretch more

Here are some posts I’ve made that will help you stay sharp and motivated while races are cancelled.

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Did you find this article helpful? Let me know by leaving a comment below or join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.


Need a running coach for your next race?

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Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT & USATF Certified Running Coach
Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT & USATF Certified Running Coach

Marc is a USATF Track and Field & Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT O2 certified running coach. I have more than 19 years of experience running and more than 10 years of experience coaching runners. Click for more information!


Marc is a middle school teacher and coach but also works with distance runners online. I help distance runners around the globe by providing support, writing customized training plans and designing workouts to help them reach their racing goals. I write for my blog every Wednesday morning and newsletter every Friday morning.

8 thoughts on “9 Strategies for Runners Dealing with Cancelled Races

  1. These are all good options. I agree it will be different for everyone. I have been enjoying virtual races but at some point I will probably just focus on maintenance. Flexibility is so important right now!

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  2. I only registered for one race this spring. And I haven’t heard if it’s still on or not. It’s scheduled for May 9. Honestly at this point I probably won’t even go even if it’s still on. My mileage is waaaaaay lower than it should be for a 25k race!

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  3. Right now, I”m using this time to work on getting back through Couch to 5K. There’s no rush and no pressure and that helps my mental coping right now.

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  4. I think having time on our side is a great benefit to so many runners. Good luck with training!

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  5. I had two races cancelled/postponed, but that’s leaving me with much more time to get in shape. I’m motivated because I have this time to get into good shape while also having as much time as I need to repeat steps. Win-win for me!

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  6. Agreed. I am going to get into some virtual runs and some time trials over the next month.

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  7. It is hard to stay focused when everything is so uncertain. I am still training but am also looking to do some virtual races for fun!

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  8. I tend to avoid strength training at all costs so I’m using this time to strength train more!

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