Facing a Cancelled A-Race
Last week, after some uncertainty, we finally heard about the decision to cancel the age group portion of the 2020 Tokyo Marathon due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. As the coach of a runner affected by this cancellation, I’m disappointed that my athlete won’t have the opportunity to show what they’ve achieved during their buildup to the race with me. But coach ego aside, the athlete can be impacted in three main ways that the coach needs to understand to best help the athlete adjust.
There are a number of physiological adaptations that have occurred in our athlete. We need to help them manage expectations regarding PR goals, race expectations, confidence, etc.
We should consider how far out from race day the decision to suspend the race is made and adjust training accordingly:
At least a month before: We can modify the last portion of the traning plan in order to extend or trim it if we find a B race to apply the leadup months of training.
One week before: Frequently this is the time one would be tapering for the “A” race. Our next step is to find a B or C race no more than 15 days away. Or, if it is longer than 15 days, we can prescribe a few easy days and then continue with short microcycles of intensity before a taper for the new race.
The day before or the morning of the race: If the cancellation is not associated with weather conditions or safety conditions, it is recommended the athlete perform a short to medium workout with bouts of high intensity. This is important to help the athlete release pre-race anxiety.
The psychological impact on the athlete is the most important consideration. The athlete is not guilty of the decision to cancel the race and he/she can’t take actions to prevent or alter the situation. Frustration can have a big impact on the athlete and can can leave them questioning their participation in the sport.
The financial impact can be significant. Depending again on how far in advance of the race we know about the cancellation, it may or may not be possible to cancel or transfer a reservation. For this reason, it can be advantageous to plan race travel with a qualified travel agency, particularly one that specializes in major sport events.
We have to train expecting the unexpected – and sometimes that can mean a cancelled event.