Having coached High School Cross-country and Track, this rule really is fun to explain when you just handed out the schedule of meets for the next three months. You get really strange looks. So here is what happens. "Kids, this is the track meet schedule for the season. Now, we'll be participating with the rest of the team, but we're not going to race any of these runs...instead we are going to use them as training...so when we get to the big meet, we are ready to win."
Back in High School and College, we raced every week, sometimes twice a week. I remember running at Middle Tennessee on Tuesday afternoon, then on Friday running at Lee College in Dayton, and on Saturday do a third race at Carson-Newman. Our legs were tired. Our bodies hurt and our school work suffered.
Then in 1986-88, I discovered the truth of this rule. You run races as fast tempo training runs, to get use to running on a track in front of a crowd, to teach your body to respond to competition. But if you don't win...that's fine...it’s not the goal of these meets. It is preparation for the main event...the race...the goal. When I used this with my young distant runners, they performed so much better. Actually some of them were the first to cross the finish line because they were so relaxed and didn't have any pressure on them to win. But when it came to the final race, the conference championship...they blew their competitors off the course, or track.
This year I'm planning on running my fastest time possible in a marathon, I have one goal race that is the Rock-n-Roll Marathon down in San Diego. The reason I selected this race as my goal run is that I've done the course last year, and it offers the best chances of being a very fast race for me. But in preparation for this charge at my fastest time, I'm running for training several marathons. Next month, I'm going to the Pasadena Marathon. February, I'll run two marathons in Huntington Beach and Los Angeles. April, I'm doing Big Sur with a friend. In May, I’m doing the Palos Verde Marathon, because it goes by my house. Finally, on 31 May is the Race. Each of these other marathons that I'm running will have a specific purpose to help me prepare for my goal race.
Regardless of what distance you are running. Remember to focus on one major race in any season. If the distance is short enough, and your training focused, you might even be able to run three or four more races after the goal race, but after those...rest and begin a new season to improve your running.