What Should You Do When Your Half Marathon Race Gets Canceled?

f you’re feeling a little down lately about all of the bad news of Covid-19 you’re not alone. Unfortunately, when it comes to the new WHO/CDC guidelines for preventative measures during a pandemic we need to keep a social distance between us. When we run a race we are definitely much closer together than the guidelines. The bigger the race, the bigger the crowd, the less space between us. The inevitable is going to happen – your race is going to get canceled or postponed.

What should you do when our half marathon race gets canceled?

  • Find another same distance race in the next couple of weeks
  • Run your own virtual race
  • Downsize your race distance
  • Upsize your race distance
  • Wait for your dream race
  • Heal those nagging injuries

I was camping with my family for about an hour from home when all of the news started flooding in. Everything was being canceled. Schools are on a prolonged 3-week spring break (now 4 weeks) and we’re not sure that we’re going to go back to school until the fall. Among some of the biggest upsets of our cancellations were our races.

I was in complete denial about my local small 5K race being canceled. There is no way that they would cancel this race. It’s small, it’s outside, it’s only a 5K or 10K distance. When I heard the news that the big Tech/Music convention in Austin Texas was canceled, I knew that my small local St. Paddy’s Pickle Parade (world’s only) and 5k/10K pickle run would be ditched.

I’ve run this small race now going on its 7th year (I’ve only missed one of these races). I placed second in my age group during one of the first races. The 2nd place prize, per age group, was a jar of Best Maid Pickles (the big backer of the pickle race and pickle parade).

Before the 6th race, I had written the race director and asked that you give out participation medals. They were going to give out cool participation medals for the first time and of course, it was the race was canceled.

What Shoul I Do If My Half Marathon Race Gets Canceled - medal

The Race That Did Not Take Place

Your emotions are in a whirlwind

It’s completely normal to feel let down and downright bummed out about your race being canceled. Take the emotions in, feel them, and then try to release them as soon as possible. You’ve trained for weeks on end with one goal and mind and then it unravels right in front of you.

Stay positive and be proud of how far you’ve come during your long training cycle. Now is not the time to get discouraged. Now is the time to act. You have several options you can choose from so all hope is not lost.

It’s time to think like a runner! It’s time to reset your goals, hopefully just a little bit, and refocus your efforts.

What should I do on the actual day of my canceled half marathon race?

The worst thing you could do would to pout, sulk, or cry. If needed does these things after you take a nice easy long run in place of your half marathon race. This easy run should be run at 20-30% less distance than your half marathon so anywhere between 9 and 11 miles (14.5 km – 17.7 km)

Option 1: Find another half marathon race in the next couple of weeks.

If you’re able to find another half marathon race in the next couple of weeks you’re lucky.

If your race is within 2 weeks you won’t lose any performance:

  • Run a couple of miles less than you ran during your last long run two weeks prior to your half marathon race
  • Ease up on any speed work you might have been working on during your training cycle
  • keep your total running volume at 70-90% of your last couple of weeks of training
  • Follow the same race week procedures as your training schedule outlines

If your race is within a couple of months you will need to fall back into a maintenance mode:

  • Run a couple of miles less than you ran during your last long run two weeks prior to your half marathon race
  • Keep up your strength training to keep your core in check for your next race
  • Four weeks prior to your race, rewind your half marathon training schedule 4 weeks and build back up to race day
  • Don’t stop any weekly speed work you’ve built in – just don’t overdo it

Do you need a strength training regime for runners? Check out this detailed post about essential strength training for runners.

If your race is longer than 3 months out:

  • Since 3 months is the average half marathon training cycle you’ll need to decide a couple of things
  • Take a week off for recovery, keep 50 to 60% of your weekly running volume, then jump back into your training 4 weeks later at the 4-week point of your training
  • You might consider running a few other smaller races such as a 5K or 10K just to keep your mind focused
  • If you do decide to run a smaller race do not run at an all-out pace

Option 2: run your own virtual race

If you’re supposed to be keeping your social distance then you can run your own virtual race. Virtual races are a great way to prove to yourself and the training that you put in the hard work and ran the distance deemed necessary by the race. Your friends could all compete and post your run times on social media. It’s a fun way to still socially engage in a running event when you don’t have many options, especially after a race cancellation.

For more detailed information on virtual races check out – what is a virtual half marathon?

Also, check out these great tips for running a virtual half marathon race – 17 tips to help boost your motivation for a virtual half marathon race.

Option 3: downsize your race

You’ve looked for alternative half marathon races but you just can’t find one that fits your schedule. Look for a smaller race such as a 5K or 10K within the next couple of weeks. Even though you’ve been training your aerobic engine, the exertion required to run a half marathon is 85% aerobic.

What does this mean? Just because you’re trained up for a half marathon doesn’t mean you will go out and crush your 5K or 10K race.

If you were running tempos consider substituting hill repeats or strides instead to get you ready for your smaller distance race.

Option 4: upsize your race

If you’re having trouble locking in a new half marathon, consider training for a full marathon.

With 6-10 weeks of additional training, depending on your physical fitness level, you can be trained to complete a marathon. Your weekly volume during marathon training should be around 35+ miles (56+ km) per at the peak before your taper.

If you start at week 11 of a half marathon training schedule, your weekly running volume should be roughly around 26 to 28 miles (41 to 45 km):

  • Week 12: 29 miles
  • Week 13: 30 miles
  • Week 14: 31 miles
  • Week 15: 32 miles
  • Week 16: 33 miles
  • Week 17: 34 miles
  • Week 18: 35 miles
  • Week 19: 22 miles (taper)
  • Week 20: 10 miles (taper) RACE WEEK

Option 5: heal your injuries

If you’ve been training with a nagging injury, it’s time to take a look at fixing it permanently. Yes, there might be some serious running downtime, however, if you fix this nagging issue, it could make you become a better less irritable runner.

As runners, we all get tightness and discomfort from time to time. This is the time to fix that IT Band issue or figure out why your hip is dipping in on the right side when you run. Go seek professional help such as a certified sports rehab professional. Even if the road to recovery might not be pleasant or cheap, by fixing the problem you could sustain a life of running without injuries.

Option 6: wait for the dream race

We all have dream races we want to participate in. For me, I would love to run the London Marathon or the Dublin Marathon? Why? Because they are overseas in really cool places I would love to visit. Plus it would check off a few countries that I have run races in.

Some of us want to qualify for Boston or New York, while others would love to run the Disneyland or Disneyworld races. No matter what dream race you have you can set aside some time and continuing running in a maintenance mode until your ready to begin your training schedule build-up leading to race day.

This might be the perfect time to dive into where you should run your half marathon. Check out this post here -> Where should I run my half marathon?

You must take action

If a race gets canceled don’t get discouraged and quitting altogether. You don’t want to have to completely reset unless you’re actually recovering from a nagging injury.

Take these steps:

  • Sign up for your next race
  • Stay positive
  • Continue cross-training
  • Run – don’t quit running
  • Continue strength training for your hips, glute, and core’s sake.
Coach Scott is a published author and RRCA certified running coach (Level 2). He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 14th half marathon race. 

 To sign up for a FREE half marathon training schedule, log sheet, and pace predictor CLICK HERE.

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