‘Why did you buy that race ticket? Time to plan your 2017 Race Calendar

Obstacle Race Magazine Interview with Michael Cohen

By Coach Michael. December 2016

How many of you runners just buy a ticket because it was an earlybird price or because your mates are doing it. This article is aimed at the seasoned and elite runner rather than the fun runner, who should book as many fun runs as possible, but in balance. As always we look to our OCR Training Expert Coach Michael, for some expert guidance as to how to build your 2017 race calendar and make sure it is purposeful and helps you to achieve your goals.

How many of you have a plan let alone a clear goal to your coming years racing? Having a goal means that your seasons races and your training plan are purposeful. What I mean is that it’s all well racing because everyone else is or you get a good price on a ticket. What is key is making sure that your planned races help you to achieve your goal.

So what is the difference from one race to another? The choice of races is of great important when you have a goal and plan. A race could be a training race to develop and test you in different race environments may that be terrain, season, distance, weather, technicality and of course range of obstacles. For instance how many of you made sure that you entered the Judgment Day race in lead up to the UK Champs so that you were able to test out the terrain and obstacles. Similarly if you were at the OCR World Champs did you do the sprint on the Friday just as a test run?

Do you need to race outside of OCR?

As a specialist Natural Running Coach I get my WildForestGym elite and age group runners to incorporate technical cross country races to develop their skills and test them amongst top cross country runners. It is likely that you will need to as well.

Monitoring your skills with Time Trials and Parkrun 

When it comes to obstacle races every race is different therefore it is very difficult to have baselines that you can compare. This is why at WildForestGym we do monthly FREE OCR Time Trials namely OCR TT’s. These OCR TT’s are an opportunity to race the same racetrack and obstacles so that you can see improvements, strengths and weaknesses month to month. Plus we do a handicap system for non-completed obstacles. Parkrun’s are also great for similar reasons and just like our OCR TT’s you get to run against top runners just to give you that extra drive.


The following steps are going to help you to develop your Race Calendar. I originally used it for triathlon racing and now use it for my WildForestGym Elite Runners.

Step 1 – Finding your GOAL

As a mentioned you need to develop a race calendar that has purpose, a focus, a GOAL. With a GOAL you can have focus, it means that your racing becomes purposeful. First thing you need to consider is what type of GOAL and how realistic is that GOAL. We all have ambitions and dreams but for a moment lets keep our feet on the ground and look at a GOAL that is realistic. For the average runner lets leave Jon Albon to have centre stage on the podium and make sure that your GOAL is realistic. However if you really feel that you have potential out there to compete with the best then don’t let anything get in your way to the podium.

What is your GOAL for 2017?

Most seasoned, elite and age group racers have they eyes on a championship race(s) others will be looking to improve and bringing in some PB’s. First off you need to be realistic. If you are currently in the top 50 of a league or age group at the moment there is little point in targeting the podium. However you could set a goal of moving from the top 50 into the top 20. That is more realistic.

Now not every one of you has to be championing the podium or league. It could be that you just want to be better. Maybe you just want to be faster or better at obstacles or even to make your running more enjoyable. These are great targets rather than goals. Targets are really important and they help you to improve. Just remember MAKE SURE YOUR GOAL IS REALISTIC.

Examples of GOALS

  • To run a 5k Park Run in less than 22mins.
  • To qualify for next years UK OCR Championships.
  • To improve on your league ranking of 59th last year.
  • To race for 1st place at the Nuclear Rush.
  • To be in the top 10 in my age group at Winter Nuts Challenge.
  • To be in the top 15% at the OCR World or European Championship

Step 2 – Finding a Championship GOAL

As the sports is developing there are a number of championship goals to be considered:

  • UK OCR League (formerly Mudstacle)
  • UK OCR Community League
  • UK OCR Championship
  • Spartan Race UK League
  • Toughest Tour Rankings
  • Spartan Race European League
  • European OCR Championships
  • OCR World Championship
  • Worlds Toughest Mudder
  • Spartan Race World Championships

Be sensible, be wise…be realistic.

Step 3- Training Objectives

Setting your training objectives will be the deciding factor as to whether you will achieve your goals. If you want to be faster then you need to look at what you need to do in regard to your training and your training races. You can’t just do the miles or just race ‘n’ race and hope that you will achieve your GOAL. So in this step you will need to look at what aspects of your current skill sets that need to be developed by way of assessing your strengths and weaknesses. Some of this will form part of your training plan others will need to be incorporated into your racing plans.

So for instance if you want to improve your ranking or want to take 4mins off your 5k-race speed then you may need to looking at your running form? I first appreciated this when I was triathlon training when it came to my swimming. I thought I was a good swimmer bearing in mind that I was a successful junior competitive swimmer. But when I went to a Masters Swimming Class I soon realised that my form was not as good as I thought. This was the value of having a good coach. He took my technique apart and re-built it and what a difference it became. Today this is one of specialisms when it comes to my running coaching. What is fulfilling is seeing someone transform their running by refining, fine tuning and building their form.

However, there is equally another important part of your training objectives that need to be addressed and this will be done as part of your race calendar fixtures. Say for instance you want to increase your race distance or change the type of terrain. So when it comes to your race calendar you may need to slot in races that replace your training sessions i.e. if you want to do the Man v’s Mountain race you may need to incorporate various other races that are going to either recreate an element of your race as well developing your training/racing in a progressive way.

If you are stuck in London you may need to find some costal runs such as Endurance Life coastal runs or maybe a cross country league race or a Brutal 10 race where you will be challenged by the terrain and where you will be competing with cross country runners. These races will form part of your race calendar, as we will discuss in step 5.

Step 4 – Drawing up your race plan

The best way of doing this is to draw up a spreadsheet document on excel or otherwise a table on a word document. If you email info@wildforestgym.com I will send you out a fully configured document that you can use as a template.

The document will need 53 rows and 8 columns. The headers for each columns are: 1st Week no, 2nd Date i.e. Monday of each week, 3rd Race Name, 4th Race Distance, 5th Race Priority, 6th Qualifying/League Points, 7th Special Needs, 8th Training. The remaining columns will be used for training information and notes.

Step 5 – Prioritising your races

You need to select 3 types of priority races: A, B and C

A-Priority Races – These are you most important races i.e. your GOAL races. You need to make sure your training plan is structured so that you are peaking for these races. Lets say your GOAL is a league and that you require 3 qualifying races or your top 3 races. Then these 3 races are you’re a-races. So if there is a winter and summer league then you will have 6 A-races in the year, ideally not more. You need to add these to your calendar. Complete columns 1-4, 5th insert ‘A’, 6th if a league race insert how many points they are worth, 7th insert an X if you will need specialist training.

The week before each of these races insert in the 8th column ‘tapering’. In the week after the race insert in the 8th column ‘recovery’

B-Priority Races – These races are races that you still want to do really well at but you may not be peaking. Similarly you will not be adjusting your training in lead up to the races. i.e. not tapering or recovery weeks. Ideally you want 6-8 races. Add these to your excel document and insert in 5th column ‘B’ and the rest of the row can be completed as above.

C-Priority Races – Your C-races will be your training races. They will replace training sessions. Again about 6-8 races. Not only will you be racing but you will be strategically training whether its terrain, distance or pacing. These races may be missed, replaced or changed as is necessary.

So based on a league GOAL this means you may have 20 races or so in a year. That is just under 2 per month. Now you need to consider the following:

  1. Is this too many or too little?
  2. Does this calendar fit into your personal and work life?
  3. Does it look realistic? Is it ambitious? Is it viable?
  4. Get you partner’s opinion. Their opinion can be invaluable as they are not as emotionally attached and they can have a different perspective.
  5. Do you need to take out another mortgage to pay the £1000 or so to race?
  6. Are any of the races too closely positioned?
  7. Do all your ‘B’ & ‘C’ races help you to achieve your goal?
  8. Do you need to review which races you have selected?
  9. Do you need to switch any of your ‘B’ or ‘C’ races?
  10. Does it feel right?

Step 6 – Training Plan – Have you left enough space to slot in training weeks/weekends   in the lead up to your ‘A’ races? It is this stage of your race calendar that you consider adding in extra columns i.e. running training, obstacle training, agility training etc. Then in each week you can add a cross or note as to what your training focus is i.e. technique, endurance, speed, force, muscular endurance, anaerobic, power, weather etc.

Step 7 – Rest & Recovery

Does your calendar allow you rest and recovery periods. This is the hardest thing all athletes have to learn. It is not easy but is very rewarding. So just looking at your race calendar have you got enough rest & recovery periods or do you need to do more jigging. You can’t race 12 months a year bearing in mind OCR doesn’t have seasons.

Step 8 – Putting it into action

Firstly and foremostly nothing is set in stone. You can press the delete button at any point. This is really important because things change in our lives may it be personal or work commitments, finance, illness or injury. Similarly it is important to periodically review your race calendar to determine if you are on target for your GOAL.

Step 9 – Listening to your body

This is where things get a bit blurred for most OCR runners. You see you choose a race because it’s a particular type of challenge, someone else is doing it, its new and exciting, you do not want to let someone down or you have paid for the ticket, accommodation or travel. But you are feeling tired, you body is not feeling right, your have a bit of an injury? This is where you have to decide on whether you are going to take note of the signpost or ignore it. You see if you ignore it there will be a point when your body will stop you with an injury or an illness and then it can be too late. Whatever happens you have spent the money on a ticket whether you go or not. It is spent. So make the right decision for the right reason.


As a coach of many a successful Championship OCR Elite & Age Group Racers I pride myself on making sure each of my racers getting the best coaching to help them to work towards achieving their GOAL. To this end I offer 4, 6 and 8 week RACE PREPARATION PLANS that includes private and tailored coached sessions. Prices start from £220 for a 4 week Race Preparation Plan that includes 6 hours of personal coaching. Saying that find a training partner and for an extra £10 per session it will cost you just £130 each for 6 hrs of training.

MONEY BACK GUARANTEE – If you are unable to make an improvement in your OCR Skills at the end of the Race Preparation Plan we will refund your full training fees!!!

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