The line between having a great race and setting a new personal record, or struggling round the last part of the course is razor thin. Running just a few seconds too fast or too slow at any point in your race could change the primary energy system your body is utilising and spell disaster.
Here’s 8 tips on how to plan your race right so you cross that finish line smiling.
Have a plan - a plan is better than no plan! For a long distance race a popular strategy is to run at a conservative pace over the first few miles, relaxing during the middle while staying on pace, and then attacking the course in the last quarter.
Curb the adrenaline - it’s easy to get carried away at the start of a race as you’re feeling great from the weeks of training and it’s hard not to get caught up in the buzz of excited runners and cheering spectators. Plus you will be feeling far stronger than in training if you’ve had a good taper which, married with the adrenaline, can make you bolt off the start which uses a lot of energy. Keep your head and stay on your target pace.
Keep your cool - start lines can be busy and it’s natural to want to get ahead of the crowds and pass runners that are running at a slower pace than you. However, surging past slower runners and getting uncomfortable in the tight crowds is an easy way to ruin your race! Stopping and starting is also a sure way to waste energy, so keep it for later in the race by staying relaxed. The start of the race is the fun bit so enjoy the atmosphere, say hello to some other happy runners and take your time to get into your pace.
Run your own race - the adrenaline flowing through your body at the start of a race can throw off your sense of pace and effort which is why many runners make the mistake of running too fast for the first few miles. For the first mile or so you should be 5-10 seconds per mile slower than race pace, so use your watch to work out how fast you are running. Running slow at the beginning of the race will make your overall time faster as you will be able to keep on pace during the middle of the race and have enough energy reserves to increase your pace for the last mile.
Keep up the pace - after the first few miles you want to settle in to your race pace rhythm, which should be at or slightly lower than your lactate threshold pace. Running faster than your lactate threshold creates a situation where the aerobic system is unable to keep up with removing waste products generated by anaerobic energy production that cause muscle fatigue.
Pace by feel - it’s tempting to continuously take a look at your watch to check you’re on pace, but try to relax and keep your focus on your running rhythm and perceived effort. Also, if you can find a group that is running at your pace or very slightly faster, latch on! Use the group and the people around you to help you relax and take your mind off the distance ahead.
Break up the race -if you find your mind is wandering and motivation is dwindling, break up the run into bite size pieces either by miles or time and give yourself some fun rewards like a Jelly Baby for every mile you complete. It’s always good to have a few wrapped up in your pocket for back up - particularly when you’re on a section when there are few spectators.
Pick up the pace -if you’re feeling strong at the end of the race you’ve executed a perfect race plan and you should have enough energy to take up the pace in the last few miles. Your legs will be fatigued so use your arms to increase the pace by moving them faster - your legs will follow!
Good luck and don’t forget to record your finish time on Mbition!