How to make the most of another summer without road races and parkrun

You don't need traditional events to create a memorable running journey this summer

Having a goal and a deadline, even if it cannot be a traditional race for now, can help us keep some form of running routine this summer. Photograph: iStock

I’m frequently asked if I know when road races and running events like parkrun will return. Unfortunately, I don’t have any insider knowledge.

But I can assure you I miss these events as much as you do. That glorious combination of pre-race nerves, mid-run camaraderie and post-run satisfaction is hard to beat. These good old days will certainly be coming back but I don’t plan on spending the summer waiting for their return.

Advance warning
This time last year we were all in a tizzy as events were being postponed at short notice. It was unsettling and frustrating for so many runners who had visualised their summer of running only for it to be taken away from them so suddenly. Some runners moved to virtual events and kept up the training routine while others decided to take a step back from their usual training schedules. A lot of time was spent speculating and ruminating. One year on, and although there are still very few races on the horizon, we do have the benefit of advance warning of a quiet racing summer ahead.

More than a day out 
A race day in the calendar is often the reason many of us keep running regularly. Having a deadline and a purpose keeps us focused and makes getting out the door easier. What we risk losing by not having races or events in the diary is consistency and confidence. Our weekly running routine is where the magic happens for us physically and mentally, not just on the race start line. Our weekday runs give most of us a chance to wind down, clear our head and be away from screens and responsibilities for a while. Having a goal and a deadline, even if it cannot be a traditional race for now, can help us keep some form of running routine this summer and ensure we keep motivated to continue making time for our running and reap all the benefits.


Start at the end 
So now is the time to take out the diary and make a plan just for you. It is three months exactly until the last day of August. It seems a long time in the future but we all know how time flies. Take a moment to imagine where you would like to be with your running by the end of August. Maybe you want to run longer, run faster or indeed take on a completely different type of challenge this summer. You might like to run in new places or take all pressure off running goals. Whatever you decide, if you commit to a plan that is not dependent on races and Covid-19 restrictions, you will be able focus on what you can do rather than dwell on obstacles that might restrict your progress. Any surprise race days that do materialise over the months can be a welcome bonus.

Summer running ideas 
Being the designer of your summer of running means you can pick the "race" days to suit your schedule and preferences. Don't put all pressure on just one summer day out. A monthly milestone would be a great checkpoint. Create your very own personal events or rope in a few running buddies. You become the race organiser as you decide your route, distance and post-run celebrations. Plot a route locally or indeed combine with a summer staycation. Many runners enjoyed the virtual races and challenges in recent months. Or, now that we have a little more freedom to travel, you might like to retrace your steps of a race you enjoyed a few years ago. The novelty of somewhere different might keep you focused to stay running.

Adapt parkrun for you 
If travel is high on your priority list remember, there are 100 parkrun routes online to choose from in Ireland alone to keep you busy all summer long. Without a regular Saturday parkrun many of us are missing that weekly speedy fix that comes with running with others towards a finish line. If you are not already doing so, you could create a monthly or even fortnightly 5km time trial with a few running buddies. A little camaraderie and competition goes a long way. Choose your local parkrun route or even better a flat 1km loop that means you are never too far away from others but can run at your own pace. We all do better together.

Take control of this summer 
We may not have traditional races to add to the summer training plan but we can be creative and design our own milestones and celebrations along the way. Let's take responsibility for the designing some big days out. Running doesn't have to take over your life this summer, but if you don't make time for it and plan it up front, there will always be something else to take priority. I have always found that my summer running calendar had always put shape to my weekly routine as well as the wider summer. When I have a training plan in place, I follow it. When I don't, time literally disappears. If you also feel that structure works for you pick some challenges and enjoyable days out that you can look forward to.

Back at the races 
We all have our fingers crossed for a return to race start lines. As race organisers look to test the waters with new ways of staging events, we cannot control the timelines but we can be ready for them when the time arrives. Choose where you want to go in the interim. Put pen to paper and let's make this as a running summer to remember. Don't wait for someone else to plan your summer. Start today and create your own summer running journey.

Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!). 
First, pick the eight-week programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: A course to take you from inactivity to running for 30 minutes.
- Stay On Track: For those who can squeeze in a run a few times a week.
- 10km Course: Designed for those who want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!

– Mary Jennings is founder of Her summer running programmes to help runners reach their goals starts July 5th. Booking open now.