Mid-week meets and doubling at meets

Pretty simple questions for the readership: How do you work mid-week meets into your training plan? Similarly, how do you work doubling (i.e. running more than one event in the same day) into your training plan?

I ask these these questions because it is obvious from my OATCCC clinic presentation that the training schedule I wrote – with no mid-week meets – is not the reality for most coaches.

I know many coaches are busy with school and winter training, but I would love to read what you have to say. Thanks in advance for your time and contributions to this post.

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  • ericwrichey

    Hi Jay,

    Mid-Week meets: Depends on the time of season and how good of an opportunity it is for the kid to run fast and PR.  I like to have kids run an off-event to either advance their general fitness (3200 in early season) or work on their speed / aggressiveness / competitiveness (open 400 or 800 + 4 x 4 leg possibly) as a tune-up for a greater competitive opportunity coming up on Fri or Sat.

    For the younger athletes – racing twice a week is plenty of specificity.  The other days of the week would include a Long Run (possibly with light progression), GS Circuits (w/ moderate-paced running), and lots of fun strides and short hills. 

    Hmm . . . I wonder who helped me put together that recipe?

    I rarely double my athletes (beyond a 4 x 4 relay leg) – small school, with great (but overcommitted) kids which means off-season training is a struggle. 

  • Ryan West

    A mid-week meet is considered a quality workout where athletes race above or below distance or go for a PR in their main race. I rarely double athletes unless they are a veteran (junior or senior) and our team needs the points or they are planning to double in a post-season meet. The other race is rarely run at full speed but I have them run a tempo or run half the race at race pace. I find that doubling takes at least two or three days to recover from. My middle distance runners will also run a 4×400 leg to work on their speed.

  • http://coachjayjohnson.com CoachJay

     Thanks Eric – really appreciate the feedback.  I like the idea that the races are the specificity for younger kids.  Something that I think some people might have missed from the OATCCC clinic is that I was assuming a veteran athlete…which is obviously different than a younger athlete.  I firmly believe that younger athletes need to race often to learn race tactics.

    Thanks again for contributing.

  • http://coachjayjohnson.com CoachJay

    Thanks Ryan – appreciate your thoughts.  I would assume others agree that doubling takes several days to recover from.

  • Nicholas Stanko

    The weekly racing schedule at Haslett High School (Haslett, MI) in the spring typically looks like a Tuesday dual meet and a Friday invitational.  With this schedule it leaves little time to get in quality/race pace work.  The only day I feel we could get something in would be Sunday, and this day I feel should be a day for family and time away from school activities.  We have done this for the past 5 years and not meeting up on Sunday seems to be the way to go… as most of the kids seem to be busy with other obligations and/or sleeping in… and this has become their 1 day off/week.

    So in terms of training this pushes most of our track workouts to the week of spring break and before (early March to April).  Once April comes and we start racing… we focus on easy recovery running, medium to high end aerobic running, drills/strides, and hill sprints.  This seems to be a nice compliment to the Tuesday/Friday races.

    So… for racing.  On Tuesdays runners usually run 3-4 races in the beginning of the season (NO chasing PRs).  Towards the end of the season this comes down to 1-2 races (when they might chase a PR).  In the meets were the competition is not so “hot” most kids will run 3-4 events.  When the competition is higher we have to spread the kids out more and reduce the number of races because the quality will be higher.  On Fridays younger runners will usually just run 1 race to try to set a PR… and upperclassmen will run 1-2 races.In the dual meets where runners are running 3-4 races, most of the races are well below “race pace”. A 4:30/9:40 runner might run 2:20 (4×8), 5:00, 10:40, and :59 (4×4).  I drill into them the importance of warming up/cooling down after each race… so they are getting in a healthy amount of easy running on race day too.

    Season effect of this system… the younger runners usually “peter out” towards the end of the season.  Just about in time when their season is ending before our conference championships were everyone does not run.  By their junior year if they have gone through the cycle 2 times they can run well into the end of the season and have their best races when it counts.  It seems to a process of building up for 2 years.  Also the mental aspect of running 4 races in a meet is important.  Done right it will give your distance runners an edge… and the other track events will have much respect for them… which builds a little freshmen’s confidence even more.  They also seemed to get pumped up at the end of the season when they get to pick 1 race to run to try and set a PR… and then their done for the day.

  • Jeffrey Bartlett


    Apologies for the long winded response!

    Our conference rules prevent athletes from running more than one event at 800 meters or longer. So, if any of the distance kids double, it’s their main race (800, mile, or two mile) and a 4×400. The answer to your question is: it depends!! 

    In less competitive meets, we will do one of two things. We may use the opportunity to practice a certain race strategy (going out hard, negative splitting, etc.), to run a certain workout pace, or we will stack one race with our studs and have them push each other to a PR or a state meet qualifying time. We also dropped athletes down or moved them up, depending on the time of season.

    As others have said, our younger kids will almost always race for the experience. Once we have older kids looking to get into States and All-States, we’re more specific about what we do on meet day. And for the competitive meets, we roll with all guns blazing, although depending on the strengths/weaknesses of our opponents may tell an athlete to try to focus only on points and not time.

    During indoor, when things are a little more controlled as far as coaching on meet day is concerned, we will have most of our varsity runners run 1000 meters at a cruise interval/critical velocity pace right before the meet starts if we know it will not be a competitive meet. This is one way we get them to add to their warm-up, and it allows us to get in a little bit of extra work. But, we mainly do it so they add some faster stuff to their warm-up. If we don’t do that, then they might run an extended easy running warm-up. Long cool-downs (sometimes with light pick-ups) have also been prescribed, although I find the kids aren’t as into that as they are longer warm-ups.

    Earlier this year, our top guy (9:41 two miler now, but 10:04 at the time) had a dual meet Thursday and a big invite Sunday. On that Thursday we had him pace one of our freshman runners to his 11:52 PR. In the same meet, two of our varsity milers who were also going to compete on that Sunday helped pace a senior teammate to his first sub-5 mile. Our belief is that as we are a TEAM our athletes will always run in the dual meet, but they don’t always have to RACE. We use it as an opportunity for our older guys to help the younger guys. Some teams we compete against hold kids out, but we don’t believe in that.

    If there is a big invite on the weekend, then we try to have our top guys do what they have to do to get the most points in the dual meets and then really focus on recovery before Saturday. If the meet is Tuesday they might do some ins/outs on Thursday or Friday, but their training is adjusted as we only really do two workouts a week.

    Anyway, just my thoughts from what we do.


  • Gregsteamboat

    I grew up on mid-week races but we never do it here in western CO so I don’t get to see how my kids would respond. I think the huge question is how much pressure is put on the kids with these meets. I don’t believe kids should aim for more than 4 meets a year that they gear for and want to race fast times so mid week meets are a “hard” workout and they would run 2-4 events to get the most distance at fast speeds in that they can but they should have no pressure to run great times. Use extra meets to experiment with different race plans and let the kids know that the plan may not produce a great time but learn from it. Make racing fun and take the pressure off the kids is the key.

  • Anonymous

    With Tuesday and Friday meets for four weeks before the conference/sectional/state meet we do a fartlek on Monday and have them run two shorter races on the Tuesday meets. That makes the longer easy run on Saturday. At this point in the season the kids should be in great shape anyway. I think the Tuesday shorter races sharpens them for meets that count the most. Kids enjoy racing. Competing is a skill.

  • Phil Hall

    I coach at a small school and almost all of our meets are on Thursdays, with a few Saturday Invitationals toward the end of the season. If we have a Saturday meet with good competition, I’ll have the kids run an off-event to work on their speed.

    I never double kids with the exception of something like an 800/long relay double. Most of my kids are doing another sport in the off season and don’t run; so they lack the strength base necessary to doubke.

  • CPWA

    Just to echo some of the post before: here in WA we usually have duals on Thur then invites on Sat. For the younger ones we try to get as many races in as possible to get more experience, but also to kind of race into shape. Plus the dual meets might be their only opportunity to race (because of entry limits at invites).
    For more experience/stronger runners either run to win at dual meets (so slower times, 2/3 races to score points) or set up one specific race intended to PR in order to get use to ‘goal race pace’ and toughness of doing that by themselves.

    Another thought that comes to mind which I think most would agree with on this post is that I am absolutly not going to jepordize an athletes’ post season for a dual meet, meaning I am not going to triple/quad someone just to win a dual/district  or even regional meet…I’d rather have a kid get top 3 to 5 in one event at state than getting 12th in two events. There probably are a few exceptional athletes that can handle this, but very few. It’s hard to see an athlete that has been expected to get 4 firsts in a lot of meets mid season struggle at the state.

  • http://twitter.com/LydiardKnowsBst LydiardKnowsBst

     I agree with the “kids enjoy racing.”  In track I work with just the girls and at the HS level you have to remember a lot of the benefit they see is going to be as a person.  There can only be one #1, so when you have 5, 10, 20+ kids to work with, there are reasons beyond Lettering for most of your team  The motivation is huge when you connect it to self-esteem building and hopefully a long term enjoyment of the sport. They can see improvement meet-to-meet and over the course of a season. 

    We go Tue/Sat during the regular season with our “money” meets on Tue late in the year.  Early season I like to do our long run on Monday because, I’ve noticed, the tendency for HS athletes is to go easier pre-meet day. But that’s okay if it’s the long run.  Then we still get the aerobic benefit and we don’t waste a limited practice day.  I got almost instant buy-in because our system developed the aerobic capacity so well that even doing a long run the day before a meet, we were seeing 50-75% of the team have PRs.

  • David Stone

    Hi Jay,

    Our schedule is usually Tuesday/Friday meets. Tuesdays are triangulars, or quads and Fridays are always invites.

    Since I can only take 2 per event to invites, everyone not scheduled to run on Friday, compete as though it were an invite and focus on their target races (+ a 4×4). Therefore, they run pre-meet on Monday, race Tuesday, then treat the rest of the week as a normal training cycle.

    My athletes who WILL compete in an invite use Tuesdays as a workout, often running the 3200 at a tempo pace, then doing strides and a strength circuit while they cheer on their teammates. Their schedule looks as such:
    Monday: Easy run + Strides
    Tuesday: Tempo + Strength
    Wednesday: Intervals/repeats/hills + Strides
    Thursday: Pre-meet shakeout
    Friday: Target race at invite
    Saturday: Easy run + Strides
    Sunday: Recover or Long Run o.y.0. (Depending on time of year/fatigue/event)

    I’ve also taken to not racing my conference/sectional/state hopefuls every in every invite. I choose the meets with the best or most relevant competition to let them work on race tactics and experience. I find this saves their legs a little, and keeps them hungry for competition. I’ve seen a lot of guys get “raced out” by the end of the season and the twice a week schedule dulls the thrill of competition, so I do my best to make sure races are still important and exciting to all the athletes.

  • Melder

    Privileged to reply here and only hope I can do so constructively… as I have strong opinions on this topic.

    My bias comes from my personal history… as a high school runner we were not allowed to double over 800 meters (880 yards… to show my “age”), as Jeff Bartlett’s conference still prohibits. However, I think I speak for most, that now more states than not allow double, tripling and quadrupling for all track athletes. 

    I’ve coached in North Carolina and now Arizona, and each state association allows all track athletes to run up to 4 events.

    Therefore, as a high school track athlete, I consider myself lucky. Although it was common to have two meets in a week’s time, and sometimes not so uncommon to have three meets a week(!) with at least one an invite, therefore the dual meets were used as a workout, and then pile milage on top… meaning, we’d race something out of our specialty, then run five to 10 miles after.

    When I began coaching in the 90’s in North Carolina, they moved to allowing all runners to compete in 4 events (as they do here in AZ where I presently coach). My bias kept me from again running any of my distance runners to run more than one race… that is until we reached the state meet, when it became all about scoring points and all athletes were clear on this point. However, to put it into context, the schools I coach at (and have always coached at) have been small schools. During the regular season, these schools have never been tied to a schedule that dictates you must run “X” number of conference meets (okay, not true, since my last year in NC did dictate us running 4 conference meets… but I used my distance runners sparingly… or ran them in a 4×4, and didn’t care about team scores).

    Fast forward… here in AZ it’s now all about running a qualifying time in order to compete in our state meet. We are not required to run dual or any other kinds of meets. I attempt to schedule meets every other week, and NOT run any of my distance runners more than one race… since the goal is to run FAST!  I only have a roster of 13 runners — boys and girls — and our goal is to not to win a team title at an invite. Like all coach (one would hope) our goal is to get the most of the athlete’s potential. Doubling a distance runner would not, in my opinion, achieve that goal. 

    In college, I was thankful that our coaches didn’t ask us to double… except on one occasion, and I think it was the turning point of “giving up” and no longer caring about what happened with the rest of my college running career. The date was April 8, 1978 in Berkeley, California. We (Arizona State University) were competing in a triangular meet against Cal Berkeley and Washington State University. The Penn Relays were to be held two weeks later and the coach told us distance runners that we had to run a certain time in the 1500 meters in order for us to earn our way back to Penn. As it turned out, none of ran the times the coach wanted, and after the race, feeling already pretty horrible, the coach told two of us (myself included) that we had to come back later and run the 5000 since the team title was too close to call and the 5000 was the next to last event. I don’t even remember warming up for this race… just putting on my spikes and off we went. During the race, I remember hearing the announcer, excited that the leader was on world record pace, but also remembering all I wanted was the race to be over. A new world record was set, but sadly, I couldn’t have cared less.

    I’m not saying that my love for racing ended as a result of being forced to double. I do think that that doubling could be compared to quantity vs. quality, and if true why would more (doubling, tripling or quadrupling) equate to running faster, in terms of racing? However, listen to your athletes and if they want to double then talk to them about the pros and cons, and then let them decide.

  • Coach Matt

    Coach Mike Halloway (U Florida) addresses this during a clinic in 2010… his thoughts are found in these two videos:

  • Matt

    I’ve been a lurker on this site since my high school coaching days started in 2006, but I figured I could add my experiences to the discussion.

    As I am currently studying my PhD in Australia, I have been away from coaching for about a year, but before going this route, I put in two years of high school coaching in California and another two years of college coaching as a grad assistant at a D2 powerhouse also in California.  
    I agree with what many posters have said here.  California offered a unique challenge for structuring training, especially for us.  Our conference had the Thursday/Saturday schedule, with a dual meet on Thursday and an invitational on Saturday. Additionally, our conference was extremely competitive, and we couldn’t reasonably expect to hold our kids out of events if we wanted to.  Additionally, the outdoor season in California is quite long, with off-season training starting as early as the first week of January, meets beginning the first week of March, and the State Meet wrapping things up the first week of June.  The only down week between March and June is the week of Spring break, usually early-mid April.

    This being said, aerobic base became the most important off-season/pre-season ingredient for us.  We gradually introduced harder work through the introduction of fartleks and hill sprints, and then moved into tempo runs and cruise intervals.  As the season started and we had meets on the schedule, our weekly schedule became something like this:

    Monday: Long aerobic day with strides, drills, ancillary work
    Tuesday: some sort of track workout (800/1600 always on track; every 3rd week, 16/3200 runners might go do a 20-30 min tempo run and wrap up with 4-6×200 or 300, just to get off the track)
    Wednesday: easy-moderate aerobic day (depending on anticpated competition) with strides/150s/200s, drills, and ancillary work
    Thursday: Varsity level athletes would generally double 16/8 and usually the 4×4, some would double 16/32 (rare).  We were fortunately deep enough that we could have a fresh person who was capable of scoring (and usually winning) in any event, and so wouldn’t need to have people triple and double all the time.  If someone did triple 16/8/4×4, it was either because the points were horribly needed, or as a workout.  If an athlete ended up doing 1 event only, they’d do a longer warm-up and cool-down and throw in some fartlek work on the cool-down.  JV/novice athletes would generally focus on an event of their choice and run to win/PR, because in our conference there was no formal JV championships at the end of the season.
    Friday: Easy day
    Saturday: Invitational meet, or long run if no meet.
    Sunday: Off. Our conference/section had a rule making it technically illegal to meet and train “in an organized manner” on Sundays, but I knew of plenty of schools who blatantly ignored this.  “Organized manner” meant a formal practice with coaching staff present.

    If the meet was going to be relatively noncompetitive, we’d give the Varsity kids instructions to practice different pacing and tactics.  For example, with the 800 runners, it’d be something like run the first 200 harder than normal, float the middle 400 at around normal race pace, and then charge home.  1600 runners would normally just go out and let whoever wanted to lead set the pace, and then do an 800-1000 progression.  3200 runners could easily turn their race into a 1.5 mile tempo run and then run a hard 800.  Unfortunately, we only had about 1 meet a season when the kids could get away with this.

    Also, as some of these posters have already said, most of the time, these kids just want to race, and aren’t worried so much about long term training as they are with competing, winning, and helping the team.  This is where “knowing your clientele” comes in to play, but I’d be preaching to the choir here.