I’ve heard SO many racing problems from runners:
I’m always out-sprinted at the end of a race. I just can’t change paces.
My #1 struggle is running at race pace and getting up to that speed on race day.
How do I run negative splits? I tried a pace band but it’s still hard to attain that negative split.
What race tactics are best for handling the competition?
If you have questions about race strategy – or need some new tactics – today is your lucky day.
Last year, I asked a group of Ironman triathletes, Boston Qualifiers, elite coaches, Olympic Trials Qualifiers, and ultramarathoners about their favorite race tactics.
Each pacing strategy was put into a downloadable book for you – for free.
Where else can you get advice from professional coaches and such accomplished runners at no charge?
Now I want to give you a short preview so you can dominate your next race. For the full book, you can download it here.
Can’t Check the Clock Till I Make Another Roadkill
Racing, particularly endurance relays, is just as much mental (if not more) than physical. One such strategy I use that helps pass the time, keep my mind off the pain of running fatigue, as well as keep my pace on cue is what I like to call my “Can’t Check The Clock Till I Make Another Roadkill” strategy.
Pegging a runner ahead of you to try and catch is a pretty common race strategy. It helps keep you motivated during a race, but I’ve found that adding an additional stipulation works even better, particularly in an endurance relay.
When running a long 10-mile leg up Grandfather Mountain during the 208-mile Blue Ridge Relay, in the middle of the night, pitch black, no sounds but the crickets and other sounds nearby that I didn’t want to think about, I decided that I couldn’t look at my GPS watch until I caught up and passed the next runner (roadkill).
If you’ve ever participated in an endurance relay race you’re familiar with the fact that often in these races, you’re alone as the runners get spaced out. Having no mile markers on the leg, the desire to constantly check the distance covered on my GPS watch was strong.
So, to help keep my pace and mind strong up this long steady incline, I held fast to my new rule–no pace or distance check on the GPS until a road kill was made. During that long isolated stretch, I managed to keep my pace on cue despite the steady incline as well as rack up 5 road kills! This is a strategy I plan to keep!
Thad McLaurin writes RunnerDude’s Blog as well as being a contributing writer for Active.com. He’s also the owner of RunnerDude’s Fitness in Greensboro, North Carolina.
He has personal trainer certifications from NPTI and ACSM, as well as running coach certifications from RRCA and USA-Track & Field. Thad’s greatest reward is helping others live healthy, active lifestyles.
Surge to Get Back on Pace
A common racing mistake I’m guilty of myself, and I see athletes I coach make, is slowly letting the pace slip during the middle of a race, often without realizing it. As your legs tire and your breathing becomes labored, maintaining goal pace gets more difficult. More specifically, the effort required to run goal pace during mile 8 of a half marathon is exponentially harder than the first mile.
The solution is to analyze your splits from previous races at the same distance and identify where this natural slow down occurred. If you have the data from your previous three to four races, you can usually find a common point in any race distance where you start to fade. If you’re new to the race distance, a good tip to remember is that the average slowing point will occur just after half way – usually between half way and three quarters of the race. For example, the slow point in a 5k usually happens at 3000 meters.
Once you’ve found your slow spot, surge at this exact moment in your next race. It doesn’t have to be that much faster than your goal pace, but consciously thinking about your pace when you normally have trouble will be a mental reminder to not let your it slip. This doesn’t necessarily make it easier to keep pushing yourself, but it helps prevent unintentional pace creep that’s so common.
How to implement in training
Like any racing tactic, you don’t want to rely on a new strategy without practicing it in training first. So, include a few 60-90 second surges during your next long run or try inserting a hammer during your next track session (a hammer is running the second to last repeat of your interval session as fast as you can and then returning to normal interval pace for your last repeat).
Both of these workouts teach your mind and body to increase its effort during a workout similar to your goal race. You’re training your body to dramatically increase the effort level as the workout goes on and will be more prepared to do so during the race.
Jeff Gaudette is a USATF and RRCA-certified running coach, two-time Division-1 All-American in Cross Country while at Brown University, and a former professional runner for the Hansons-Brooks team. He is an Olympic Trials qualifier in the 10k (28:46 PR) and marathon (2:22:02 PR) and is the founder of Runners Connect.
Monopolize on Your Own Vanity
Let’s face it. We are all at least a little vain. My favorite race tactic during an endurance race is to monopolize on my own vanity.
Nothing puts pep in your step or gives you focus like knowing someone you want to impress is waiting around the corner.
After several marathons and dozens of failed tactics, the most effective way I’ve found to get myself out of the mid-race slump is to get as many friends and family on the course as possible. There is simply no better feeling than having the support of loved ones after putting in so much time and effort training.
Unfortunately (for them), just having spectators show up at the start and finish line isn’t enough. The key is to make sure your fans are just as tired from running around the course as you are from running the actual course. Map out as many places that they can find you as possible, write down your splits so they know when to expect you, and provide them with transportation information so they can easily navigate the course. The more work you put in yourself, the more success you’ll have on race day.
Once you have all the spots mapped out, memorize them. The anticipation that builds as you near one of those spots alone will boost your spirits well before you actually see them.
Don’t be afraid to recruit people to cheer you on. Good friends know what you put into training, and they will want to be there to celebrate the accomplishment. The more people you add to the cheer squad the better.
And finally, show your supporters that you care. Make them their own race bag, packed with snacks, water, maps, and sign-making supplies. Throw in a cowbell for some added excitement. The more fun they are having, the more fun you will have.
Most people would tell you that running is a solo sport, but achieving an endurance race finish should be a celebration. Embrace the support from others, and they will help carry you across the line.
Doug Hay’s addiction to endurance running started in 2008 with his first marathon. Every marathon and ultra since has taught him new lessons and tricks, which he shares on his Washington, DC-based running blog, RockCreekRunner.com.
9 More Race Strategies
Every course, race distance, and runner is unique. Some may require an aggressive approach while you’ll be better off racing conservatively in others.
Rather than give you the “best” strategy, my goal with this book was to highlight effective pacing strategies that work in many different situations.
Racing a triathlon? Running your first 50k? Getting speedy in a local 5k? Got ya covered!
Each race tactic is proven to work for accomplished runners – and can work for you. Put one of these into practice during your next race and see your confidence (and finish time) improve.
Want the entire collection of race tactics from contributors like elite coach Jay Johnson and Senior Editor at Competitor Magazine Mario Fraioli?
It’s my way of saying thanks for being here.