Racing to complete or Racing to compete?

By: Ryan Kerrigan

Here at Ridgeline Athletics we work with athletes of all abilities. Coach Ryan Kerrigan heads up our competitive trail program and we reached out to him to talk about the five differences between the recreational runner who's "racing to finish" versus what it would take for that person to become a "racing to compete" athlete.

1) Training with intent - have a plan that progresses towards a specific goal, not just going out each day and running for as long as feels good. It’s pretty easy to come up with race goals but the building a training plan that works towards those goals is harder. Building a plan can happen with a coach or on your own but each session should have a purpose. If you can’t define that purpose, return to the goal and the plan!

2) Recover as hard as you train - the rest component is just as important as the training component! Most often our job as coaches is to enforce rest and recovery, not the training!

Athletes tend to be pretty highly motivated so asking them to work hard isn’t the problem. It’s getting them to go easy on the rest days! If you can embrace the recovery methods and use them to your advantage, you WILL run faster.

3) Use training to destress, not add to your life stress. Very few of us are full time runners. Running is part of a greater number of stressors that we need to control. The best competitive runners we work with use their running to help other stresses melt away and recognize that if running is adding to their other stressors, they might need to dial back because they’re doing themselves a disservice.

4) Set Short Term Goals and Celebrate Small Victories- Long Term Goals can take... Well, a long time to achieve. Setting shorter goals as stepping stones along the way is not only encouraging for the athlete, but also a good way to gauge if the plan is appropriate or if some alteration is needed. 

It's also important for athletes to feel regular joy and accomplishment throughout the training process and life. One of our goals as coaches is encouraging our athletes to love the training lifestyle and routine just as much or even more than the racing part. And when the plan is athlete appropriate and fun then the satisfactory race results pile on as well, not the other way around. 

‘You can’t run a mile under 4 minutes if you can’t run 1/4 Mile under 60 seconds’.. -Declan Connolly 

5) Develop a long term plan. Training plans should go beyond the next goal race/event. Think 2-5 years ahead and use races to help you progress further towards bigger goals. Every day doesn’t need to be planned out but you should have a sense of how the goals this year will lead you to next year’s goals and then the next.

Want to work on moving into that “racing to compete” category? We’ve got a handful of openings here at Ridgeline so send us a message at It’s the perfect time of year to move into more thoughtful training!

Ultra-Marathon Plans

Our training plans pull from both our expertise in mountain and ultra racing and are designed both for the first time ultra runner as well as experienced runners looking to take on a new goal.

More info