What next? That is a question that many runners will ask on a regular basis, whether you have just managed to run your first 5k without walking or you have completed a goal race such as a half marathon. Sometimes the question is asked as you cross the line, sometimes it takes a few days after uttering 'never again' to realise you need to set a new challenge... or feel you need redemption for a perceived poor performance.
Recover and Assess
The first step is to recover well, revel in your accomplishment, or if the race wasn't to your expectations look back over your previous training to see where improvements can be made. If you don't already keep a training log this is a great time to start, as it will assist you in identifying strong and weak areas of your training.
Make A Plan
The next step is to make a plan. If you already have a goal race set for later in the year, you may be tempted to relax a little too much and lose some of the running fitness you have worked so hard for. Having a plan for an interval race, or regular running, possibly with a monthly volume goal before building up again can make sure you go into the your main training block ready to build on what you have developed rather than starting from scratch.
If you are looking to find a new challenge, then depending on your recent race you have a few options available. If you have just completed a 5km or 10km race, then it might be worth considering building up to a half marathon in the next 8-12 weeks. If you have just completed a half marathon then possibly a marathon in the next 12-16 weeks. Currently the Perth City to Surf Marathon would fit in perfectly for those looking to step up to the full distance.
If you have just completed a full marathon, then you might want to consider shifting gears & aim for a fast 5km or 10km 6-8 weeks away (still allowing for a recovery that includes a reduced volume for a month after your race).
Sometimes you may be looking for something completely different - something that will rebuild some motivation, provide a new challenge and re-energise your running mojo. If this is the case I can strongly recommend thinking about a trail race. Training on the trails will have a positive effect on your running, building stability and decreasing the risk of overuse injuries by the recruiting more of the stabilizing muscles and adding variability to the loads that can be very repetitive when running on roads.
If you have just completed a fast 5km or 10km but have been completing training runs up to 15kms, or if you have just completed a half or full marathon then a trail race up to 30kms in 8-12 weeks is a viable option.
I can highly recommend a new local trail race called the Feral Pig Ultra. Don't be put off by the Ultra in the title, there is a 25km option, but for those who have completed a marathon then it may be worth stepping up to the 50km race. Held on the 2nd of July this race would be a perfect option for many looking for a new challenge.