Click here to download the course maps: KP Half and 5K course map
First of all, be sure you’ve looked at the course map linked above. You don’t have to memorize every mile mark but try to have a general idea where some of them are. You will race better when you know where you’re going.
I suggest you break the race into three sections:
- Start to Mile 4 (Panhandle back to JFK Drive) – Conservative; about five seconds per mile slower than your goal pace.
- Miles 4 to 7 (downhill through the park) – Use the downhill in the park from the museums to the beach and run fast. Try to pick the pace up by ten seconds per mile from your first four miles (i.e. five seconds per mile faster than goal pace).
- The last HALF of the race, Miles 7 to the End (Great Highway) – Yes, this is almost half the race. You can still catch a lot of people and make up a lot of time on the Great Highway (if you didn’t go out too hard). Plan to be the one who is catching people on the Great Highway. Start trying to pass people as soon as you get on the Great Highway. Catching and passing people is an exhilarating feeling. Passing the first person is the hardest. Once you pass one person, you’ll then try to pass more. With each person you pass, you’ll feel better and better and the fast pace will become easier and easier. See if you can hold the pace you were running downhill through the park or go faster (if so, hello big PR!). If not, lock on to your goal pace and you should still hit your goal time.
The 5K is a fun run and the course isn’t certified. That being said, I have run the course and because of the downhill it is a fast course. The 5K course is marked on the above pdf course map with dashed lines.
The start for the 5K and half marathon are at the same time and same place. The 5K course makes a sharp right turn after about 400 meters. Line up on the right side of the start line so you won’t have to cut across traffic to make the turn. Be on the lookout throughout the race to make sure you are on the 5K course! The first mile is pretty flat. The only uphill of any significance is right before the first mile mark as you go from MLK Drive up to Stow Lake. On this course you can really hammer out a fast last mile…which means, don’t be afraid to press the second mile (which also has lots of downhill)….you won’t die….gravity will be your friend and help get you to the finish line.
Some other important things to keep in mind for pre-race Sunday morning.
- Parking. Remember that it’s a point to point course. Ten thousand runners means not a lot of extra parking spaces. Check the website and race program for parking information.
- If you want to park by the finish line there are two main lots, either on the Great Highway or up above the Cliff House. You can either run to the start (approximately two miles) or take the race provided shuttle. Shuttles begin at 6:15 A.M.
- If you park by the start line you can either run back to your car for a cool-down after the race or take one of the shuttles that will run up Fulton from the Great Highway to 8th Avenue.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to:
- Get in line for the port-a-potties.
- Check your sweats.
It may be a little Type A to plan out all this stuff but having a plan and giving yourself extra time to park, ride the shuttle, go to the bathroom, and check your sweats can really pay off. You want to minimize stress before the race. Planning this stuff out is one way to do just that.
Dress for success.
The latest weather reports for the 2011 race suggest that there is no rain in the forecast. Still, it will likely be chilly before the race and at the start so you need to be prepared. I suggest you plan now what you will wear.
What shoes will you race in? Most people can get by with regular training shoes or lightweight trainers for a half marathon. You’re probably on the pretty elite side if you have racing flats for 13.1 miles. Don’t forget to pick the right socks. Your lucky race socks are the obvious choice if you are superstitious. The sock should certainly be made of wicking microfibers so they don’t rub you raw if they get wet. Remember these socks could get dirty if it rains and may never be the same again so if you have sentimental attachments to a pair of socks and want to keep them pristine, leave them home.
You want to have something that keeps you warm (top and bottom) to warm-up and stretch in. But don’t bring your whole wardrobe because you need to put it somewhere before the race starts.
If it’s wet, a good way to stay as dry as possible (and thus as warm as possible) before the race is a garbage bag with holes cut out for your head and arms. Or an old rain poncho. Use something that you don’t mind throwing away right before the race so you can keep it on as long as possible. Your goal before the race is to stay as dry and warm as possible.
Once the race starts, if it’s raining, face it, you are going to get wet. All you can hope for (besides running so fast that you run between the rain drops) is to finish as quickly as possible and get out of the elements. Early in the race, I try to avoid puddles and go as long as possible with dry shoes and socks. But once they become saturated, I stop wasting energy and going the extra distance to dodge puddles.
Staying warm during the race is key. Heat escapes through your extremities (feet, head, hands). You can’t do much more than wear your shoes and socks on your feet. For your head, a beanie is wise. If it’s raining, a hat with a bill will shield your face from the rain. And for your hands, gloves.
A lot of people wear tights to keep their legs warm. It’s a personal preference thing. I think people who normally wear tights are used to it and like it. It has to be really freezing out (single digits) before I wear tights. I always have this (probably irrational) fear that I am going to get hot and be uncomfortable in tights.
Wearing something to cover your arms is also an option. This can be tricky. You can wear a shirt under the singlet for warmth. If you go with a long sleeved one, try to have it fit snuggly so you aren’t catching extra wind with your baggy sleeves. A downside to these undershirts is there’s no going back…it’s pretty hard to take it off mid-race. A new way to combat this shortcoming is to wear arm warmers over your arms. Bicyclists have been using arm warmers for years but it’s only in the last couple years that I’ve seen runners using them. When you get warmed-up you can take these off like gloves and stuff them into a pocket or hand them to someone. Another option is to wear something over your singlet (long sleeved shirt, sweatshirt, jacket, or microfiber shirt) that you can take off mid-race and tie around your waist.
Carbo-loading and other race nutrition concerns…at least my take on these topics….there are certainly other opinions out there and I do not claim to be a nutritional expert.
A lot of people ask me about carbo-loading. For the half marathon distance (an effort of 1:20-2:00 for most of us), carbo-loading isn’t as vital as for a full marathon. But still, I will answer the question.
The original concept of carbo-loading (by Ahlborg in 1960) involves an exhaustive workout one week before the race and a low-carb (10% carbs) diet for three days (to deplete the body of glycogen) and then a high-carb (90% carbs) diet for three or four days. This is to achieve a effect known as glycogen supercompensation. Nowadays there are other scientific methods of carbo-loading that are not as extreme.
“Traditional” carbo-loading for typical runners is eating pasta the night before a race. This method may not have the same physiological effect as Ahlborg’s method, but at least we all feel we are doing something nutritional to enhance our race performance. And by default, if you are eating pasta, you are not having a steak the night before the race. I think the traditional pasta meal before a race is part of running culture. The SHC cross country team has a pasta dinner when we have team dinners before a meet. I believe there is much value in having a routine and eating something familiar. And if you believe the carbohydrates Saturday night are somehow going to make you run faster on Sunday, who am I to dispute it?
Don’t overeat on Saturday night. Don’t try a new pasta recipe or a new restaurant. Just eat something you like, and that you know agrees with your body (nothing too greasy or that leaves you really really full). And reap the psychological benefits of knowing you have carbo-loaded in your own way.
Welcome to 2011 KP Half Marathon and 5K week. On Friday at midnight, race registration was closed as the race reached its limit of 10,000 runners so the race is officially sold out for the third year in a row! Some final week workout thoughts:
Rest is important but I suggest sticking to your routine. Don’t over do it, but if you normally swim, bike, do yoga or run go ahead and work out, just don’t go extra hard or long.
For advanced runners, here are some additional tips for this week:
Thursday – two options:
Option 1 (tempo and 300’s): Three miles at tempo/Lactate Threshold (LT) pace and then 4X300 with 100 meter jog recoveries. Run each 300 a little faster than the previous one.
Option 2 (track workout):
800 – easy (half marathon pace)
6X300 with 100 meter jog recovery (keep the recoveries short, the point is not to run the 300’s super fast).
800 – hard (think of it as the last 800 of the race)
Friday – I always suggest taking the day 48 hours before a big race off and getting plenty of sleep.
Saturday – Pre-race: three miles easy and four to six striders. Striders are 80-100 meter sprints at 70-90% effort. The goal is to loosen up the muscles by getting the blood pumping to your legs and breaking a sweat. Then shut it down and save it for race day.
A couple of Thursdays ago I introduced hammer intervals to the group. Zack jokingly wrote on Facebook: “Hammer, meet Ice Bath. Ice Bath, meet Hammer.” I don’t know if it was THAT challenging but hammers certainly can make a workout more like a race and thus a little harder but also more beneficial.
I learned about the concept of hammer intervals from Scott Simmons and Will Freeman. They wrote about it in their book, “Take the Lead,” and Scott talked about it at a clinic I attended this month in Charlotte, NC. There was also a short summary about them in Running Times (http://runningtimes.com/Article.aspx?ArticleID=16399). I used hammer intervals sparingly over the last year with the Sacred Heart Cathedral teams, but now that they have shown up at a Thursday night workout, I guess that they are officially now part of my coaching repertoire.
The idea behind hammer intervals is that in a race, as your muscles get fatigued, the same pace becomes increasingly more difficult to hold. If your goal is to run a 6:00 pace for three miles, running the first mile in 6:00 may take an effort level of say a “7.” But to maintain a 6:00 pace during the second mile, you need to increase your effort level to an “8.” If you were to continue to give an effort of “7” during the second mile, you are likely to slow down and run that second mile in 6:15. On the flip side, if you gave an effort level of “8” in the first mile, you might run that first mile in 5:45 (the classic mistake of going out too fast because the pace seems easy at the time). On to the third mile, where it now takes an effort level of a “9” or “10” to keep going at 6:00 pace. The ability to give this type of effort is where champions are made and PR’s come to fruition.
I believe the key to running an even paced race is to measure your effort level so you are working harder as the race goes on (not necessarily running a faster pace as the race goes on). By giving increasingly more effort as the race goes on, and thus maintaining pace, you are likely to pass other runners who are giving the same effort throughout the race, and are thus running slower and slower.
Hammer intervals help you simulate giving more effort later in the race. Say you are doing a workout of 12 X 400 at your 5K goal pace of 90 seconds per lap with 90 seconds recovery. On 400’s number six and number ten, insert “Hammers.” That means the sixth and tenth 400 should be run in 86-88 seconds (2-4 seconds faster than your goal pace) but take the same 90 seconds recovery. Doing this forces you to give a harder effort in the middle of the workout, and because of that harder effort, you will be less recovered for the subsequent 400’s so you’ll have to work a little harder to hit those in 90 seconds. Voila! You are teaching your body to do what you want it to do during a race, which is to give increasingly more effort as the race progresses so that you maintain race pace for the whole race.
You can expect to hear me call for a hammer interval every now and then on Thursday night. And I understand that I’ll probably hear another loud collective groan of “ugh” from the group every time.
With many of the Pamakid runners that I coach training for the upcoming Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon, this was the perfect chance to try out this long tempo workout that I’ve been wanting to try.
The workout is modeled after something I read that the Hanson’s do (http://runningtimes.com/Article.aspx?ArticleID=12151). Two weeks before a marathon, they do 2 X 6 miles at ten seconds per mile faster than marathon pace with a ten minute walk/jog in between. Since we aren’t elite runners and the goal race is 13.1 miles, not 26.2 miles, I took the liberty of adjusting it accordingly.
So the Pamakids workout on MLK Day was 2 X Lake Merced (4 1/2 miles). The goal on the first lap around the lake was to run goal half marathon pace. Then it would be a seven minute rest before going for a second trip around the lake. But, on the second lap, the pace would be five seconds per mile faster.
In total, it was nine miles of “tempo running.” So not only a good physical workout but a good mental one, too. Knowing you have completed a challenging workout like this is bound to pay off come race day.
This would also test if your current goal pace is realistic/accurate. If you feel exhausted after 4 1/2 miles at goal pace, it’s not very realistic that you can hold it for 13.1 miles. But if the pace feels pretty comfortable and you can pick it up and run slightly faster at the end of nine miles of running, it should be a real confidence boost that you are ready for a good half marathon. For some, you may find your goal pace is too conservative because you easily picked up the pace (more than five seconds per mile) on the second lap.
Studying the mile splits from this workout can give you some insight into how you are running. Starting too fast, slowing down too much in the middle, and speeding up a lot at the end are all common errors and the mile splits will let you know you should change your ways.
That was the plan, at least. The rain/storm that hit during the workout made conditions pretty rough (the photo above of Denis finishing his second lap around Lake Merced does not do the wet conditions justice!). Still, I think the twelve hearty souls who came out for the run got a good tester workout for the half marathon.
The below appeared in the Coaches’ Two Cents section of Peter Magill’s website, Younger Legs for Older Runners.
Monday – Bike
Tuesday – Medium
Wednesday – Medium
Thursday – Track Intervals or
Friday – Medium
Saturday – Long
Monday – Bike or Off
Tuesday – Hills or Tempo
Wednesday – Medium
Thursday – Track Intervals
Friday – Cross Train
Saturday – Medium
5 hard days: 2 long runs and 3 “speed sessions”
3 non-running days
6 medium run days
One of the most important training theories relating to distance running is the 5 pace training theory. This concept was invented in 1970 by Englishman Frank Horwill. Peter Coe used the system to coach his son, Sebastian Coe, to 4 Olympic medals (gold at 1500 meters and silver at 800 meters in both 1980 and 1984) and 11 World Records (the most famous of which, the men’s 800 meter record of 1:41.73 stood from 1981 until 1997).
The training theory is based on the belief that runners slow down 4 seconds per lap as the distance doubles. This is what is known as the 4 second rule. Horwill’s training called for athletes to train at their chosen race distance pace as well as two paces above and two paces below (i.e. 5 different paces). Thus, the name, 5 pace training. Today this system of training is often called multi-tier training.
How does this work and how can you apply it to your training? Take a recent PR for a particular distance. This is most likely a 5K, 10K or half marathon (unless you are in high school you probably do not have a recent PR for the 200, 400, 800, mile or 2 mile).
EXAMPLE – Danielle (1:32:54 at the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon last February)
(Warning – the below calculations require some converting of minutes and seconds to decimal and back or a special coaches’ calculator). So that’s 7:05 per mile (1:32:54 divided by 13.1) for the half marathon. Which equals 1:46 400 pace (7:05 divided by 4 because there are 4 laps or 4 400’s in a mile). Write that into the chart.
|Distance||400 pace for that distance||Per Mile Pace||Overall Time|
|Full Marathon (26.2 miles)|
|Half Marathon (13.1 miles)||1:46||7:05||1:32:54|
|10K (6.2 miles)|
|5K (3.1 miles)|
|2 mile (2 miles)|
|1 mile (1 mile)|
|800 (0.5 mile)|
|400 (0.25 mile)|
Now you can add/subtract 4 seconds per 400 pace for the rest of your distances. Write those into the chart.
|Distance||400 pace for that distance||Per Mile Pace||Overall Time|
|Full Marathon (26.2 miles)||1:50|
|Half Marathon (13.1 miles)||1:46||7:05||1:32:54|
|10K (6.2 miles)||1:42|
|5K (3.1 miles)||1:38|
|2 mile (2 miles)||1:34|
|1 mile (1 mile)||1:30|
|800 (0.5 mile)||1:26|
|400 (0.25 mile)||1:22|
Finally, calculate what that 400 pace equates for the whole distance. You can do this by multiplying your 400 pace by 4 (to get a per mile pace). Then multiply that mile pace
by an appropriate amount to get the overall time (I’ve listed the mileage for each distance in () after the distance). Write those into the chart and now your chart is complete.
|Distance||400 pace for that distance||Per Mile Pace||Overall Time|
|Full Marathon (26.2 miles)||1:50||7:20||3:12:08|
|Half Marathon (13.1 miles)||1:46||7:05||1:32:54|
|10K (6.2 miles)||1:42||6:48||42:09|
|5K (3.1 miles)||1:38||6:32||20:15|
|2 mile (2 miles)||1:34||6:16||12:32|
|1 mile (1 mile)||1:30||6:00||6:00|
|800 (0.5 mile)||1:26||5:44||2:52|
|400 (0.25 mile)||1:22||5:28||1:22|
This is what those online race predictor calculators are doing. It’s a nice way to project race times for a new distance. If your PR is much slower than your projected time, you are under-achieving at that distance. If your PR is much faster than your projected time, then you probably have great potential to improve more at the distance you used for the initial calculation.
What’s really great with this knowledge is you now know your pace to do workouts like:
|Workout||Goal times from this example|
|200’s at 400 or 800 pace||1:22-1:26 pace à :41-:43 for 200’s|
|400’s at mile pace||1:30 pace à 1:30 for 400’s|
|800’s at 2 mile or 5K pace||1:34-1:38 pace à3:08-3:16 for 800’s|
|1600’s at 5K or 10K pace||1:38-1:42 pace à 6:32-6:48|
|Tempo Run at half marathon pace||7:05 per mile pace|
|Long Run at marathon pace||7:20 per mile pace|
So even if you don’t run the 400, you can use this theory to calculate what your 400 pace should be. And even if you have never run a marathon, you can still do a long run at your marathon pace.
If you come to the Thursday Night Track Workouts, I do the planning and math for you. I mix up the workouts so you train in different pace zones and I come up with goal paces for you to hit in order to get an effective workout. So that just leaves the work of running the distances and times to you.
One reason I like this theory of training is that it is intuitive to me. Long before I read about this training theory, I was using it. Early in my coaching career, I made race time projections and workout pace calculations using the principle of the 4 second rule. To me it just makes sense.
The importance of doing workouts at different paces is so you work different muscles and different energy pathways. Doing 3X1600 every week won’t help your speed. But doing only 200 intervals will not improve your strength/stamina. That’s why I cycle through different workouts that require you to run at different paces. On Power Week, I usually have you run two or three different paces within the same workout.
There are probably some workouts (or types of workouts) you like better than others. You probably like the workouts that you are better at. For Frank, that’s 200’s. For Heather, that’s miles. Again, that’s why you have a coach. If all you ever did was run workouts you are better at, you would not be working on improving your weaknesses. So get out there and run some long repeats, Keith. And even though you hate them, those 200’s and 400’s are good for you Adam.
Pre-race superstitions. What are they? A pre-race superstition is something you do leading up to a race for good luck. It’s a ritual. Some do it to help relax. Some do it without even knowing it.
For myself, some of my pre-race superstitions are just habits that over time have become a part of my pre-race routine. I ALWAYS put on my left sock, then my right sock, and then my left shoe, then my right shoe. Always in that order.
This sock-sock-shoe-shoe thing became a hot topic with the Pamakids group that traveled to the Folsom Relay this fall. Malinda Walker had her doubts about the whole pre-race superstition thing. “99% of the time I put my socks on before my shoes. Does that make me superstitious?” I quickly pointed out to her that all her PR’s occurred when she put her shoes on after her socks.
Overhearing this whole exchange, Ariel Parrish then posed the question, what do you do if you have to put Vaseline on your feet before you put on your socks? Obviously putting Vaseline and then the sock on one foot and then moving to the next foot would be easier and less likely to stain the surrounding area with Vaseline. But would the running gods approve? I told Ariel that in my “expert” opinion she should Vaseline her left foot then her right foot and then move on to the usual socks and shoes routine. Ariel followed this advice and ran a 13 minute PR at the California International Marathon.
What other pre-race superstitions do people have? I polled some runners I know to see what kinds of answers I would get.
Dave Hoatson always puts on the shoes he’s going to race in at the race site. Whether the race is across the bay, across town or just down the block, Dave heads out the door race morning with 2 pairs of shoes. One pair is on his feet. And the other pair (the ones he will race in) are carried along in a bag, waiting to be put on just prior to the race.
A common race ritual is a lucky article of clothing. Renowned coach Jack Daniels believed that lucky clothing items should be avoided because if for some reason the all important item becomes unavailable (lost, dirty, etc), it could cause the runner mental distress. Still, you hear of these stories. Former Sacred Heart Cathedral runner (now competing for the UC Irvine team) Don Sebastian told me he had one pair of socks that he used for all his cross country races and another pair of socks that he used for all his track races. 4 years of racing. 2 pairs of socks. Bet those socks (what’s left of them) could tell stories. State Champion Shannon Rowbury didn’t have one set pair of socks but she did always wear the same type of socks for her races and she also reported that she had a lucky sports bra for races. Even though Shannon couldn’t think of any other pre-race superstitions, I can tell you, as someone who spent many hours watching her prepare for races, there was one particular lucky shirt worn for warm-ups before her big races.
Another common superstition involves the pre-race meal. For John Spriggs the pre-race breakfast is one cup of coffee, one banana and one piece of toast. This has been John’s pre-race meal since his high school days in 1978…well the cup of coffee was added later. Christine Jegan’s pre-race meal is a relatively new one. The night before the Las Vegas Marathon in February 2002, she enjoyed a glass of red wine. Then the next day she ran a Boston Marathon qualifying 3:35 (20 minute PR). So now, even though the experts warn against alcohol before a race, Christine has her lucky glass of red wine.
Some pre-race superstitions begin by accident. Impala runner, Tara Hillier was once late for a race and didn’t have time to warm-up. She ended up having a good race. Now she skips or at least minimizes her warm-up. Now while this may not be physiologically sound….if it works for her…
What the actual ritual is and why, isn’t the important thing….it’s whether or not you have one. Dave Parrish always showers and shaves the morning of a race. In fact, he purposely doesn’t shave the day before to build up some good stubble to shave off race morning. On the opposite side, SHC runner Michelle Gallagher, who was 3rd place at the State Meet in cross country last fall, refuses to shower the day before a race because she doesn’t want the warm water to zap any energy from her muscles. Another in the no shower before a race category is Olympic Trials Marathon Qualifier (2:18) Chris Lundstrom. Chris’ reasoning is simply, “I figure I’m going to get sweaty and dirty during the race anyway”.
As a coach, I like the pre-race rituals because they can help you relax before a race when you would otherwise be nervous. You feel confident because you’ve done your ritual. Things feel familiar because you’ve done what you always do before a race. And if the superstition brings you some extra luck in the race who’s going to complain about that?
So next time you see me crumpling up my number before pinning it on my shorts, doing a certain pretzel stretch that I only do on race days, taking striders away from the start line and walking back to the start line (not striding or jogging back), and jumping up and down in place at the start line while the race director gives instructions, don’t worry, I’m just trying to get some extra luck coming my way.
This story has been modified from articles written by Andy Chan that appeared in the May and June 1995 DSE News.
I’ve done my training. Now I’m ready to run that great race. But what do I do? Sometimes some intelligent and strong race tactics can help you run a fast time as much or more than physical training. Let me take you through a hypothetical 5K race and point out some important do’s and don’ts.
It’s a nice warm morning – a perfect day for racing. I begin my warm-up, jogging slowly for 10-12 minutes (with my walkman playing the always inspirational “One Moment In Time” song) to warm up my muscles. If it’s a particularly hot day, I may only need 5-10 minutes to warm up and if it’s cold, I may need as much as 20 minutes. The idea is to break a sweat but not tire yourself out. Often when I feel tight/stiff because I just woke up, a good warm up jog will get rid of the tightness/stiffness and wake my body up. Next, I stretch, starting with my head and neck and working down my body to my legs and feet. Muscles function best when they are warm, have blood flowing to them, and are stretched to their optimal length. After stretching, I take 4-6 striders. Striders are 50-75 meter bursts at a fast speed but not all out. I start with a 50 meter one at half speed and make each successive one a bit longer and a bit faster so that by my last one I’m running 75 meters at the speed I may be running when I “kick it in” at the end of the race. These striders prepare my legs to turnover quickly.
Now, I’m ready to go. If the race is not yet ready to start, I keep jogging around or do a couple more light striders. The key is to keep moving even when you’re at the starting line listening to those last second instructions. This may mean you have to jog in place or jump up and down. You’ve got your heart rate up so that blood is pumping down to your legs making your muscles feel warm, loose, and relaxed but if you stand still even for just 1 minute you can lose all the benefits of your warm up.
When the starter says, “On your mark!”, I place my left foot just behind the line with my right foot a step behind. My right arm is forward and my left arm is back. This may sound simplistic but how many of you start your race with your left leg and left arm both forward? If you do, that means on your first step, your right arm and right leg both move forward at the same time. Unless you’ve invented a new way of running or you’re trying out for the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, this is incorrect. This may seem incidental but since it’s so easy to do correctly, why not take the time to learn to do it this way?
In order to assume the proper starting position you must know your Power Leg (your stronger leg). The Power Leg is the one that’s placed forward (in my case, my left leg). This leg is the one you push off with on your first step. To determine which of your legs is stronger, stand with your feet even and shoulder width apart. Have someone push you from behind in the very middle of your back. The leg that moves forward to catch yourself from falling on your face is your Power Leg.
When the gun goes off, I go out hard for the first 100 or so meters. I run this faster than my 5K pace because I want to establish good position and avoid getting stuck behind runners slower than myself. After about 100 meters it’s important to settle into my 5K pace (5:30/mile). If I get too excited or have a slight memory problem and forget to settle into the proper pace I’m liable to go out too fast and die at the end. I don’t concern myself with the people running a lot faster than 5:30/mile pace. If they can hold that pace, they’re going to beat me anyway. If they can’t hold that pace, I’ll catch up to them later. Instead, I concern myself with the people around me running 5:30/mile pace. My plan is to run with this pack so that I can run 5:30/mile pace with as little energy expenditure as possible. I draft off of someone’s shoulder and let others in the group use up the mental energy of worrying about how fast we’re going. I don’t waste energy jockeying for position within this group. I just relax, try to control my breathing so that I’m not hyperventilating (if I am, I’m probably running too fast a pace), and put it on cruise control. I let the group pull me through the first mile as if we were all just on a training run together.
At the mile mark I’m at 5:20. A little fast but that’s OK. Nothing I can do about it now so I might as well make the best oif it rather than worry that “I went out too fast”. “I’m gonna have a great race”, I say to myself, “5:20 and I feel great!!”. There’s a tendency to unconsciously slow down at this point and that’s exactly what I want to avoid. Instead, I try to pick-up the pace a bit. I’m really not going to be running any faster but because now I’m a little tired I must make more of an effort in order to run a 5:30 mile. This is the key part of the race. I now make an attempt to open up distance between myself and the runners behind me and close the gap on the runners ahead of me. If I run a strong 2nd mile, hopefully, I’ll pass some runners and put myself in position to catch some more runners in the last mile and run a fast time. There’s nothing like a strong 2nd mile to build your confidence and get you excited to run a great last mile. If I don’t push the pace now, I’ll probably just slow down, get passed, and then become discouraged so that I don’t run a good last mile either.
At this point, good strategies are a must and can make a big difference. I make sure I cut the tangents, which means run the shortest distance. This is especially important if the course has a lot of turns. When I get to a hill I shorten my stride and take quick steps off of my toes. I try to maintain the same pace going up the hill but at the top of the hill I do what is called ”cresting the hill”. There is a tendency to get to the top of a hill, say “Thank God, it’s over” and slow down to catch your breath. Instead, I do the opposite – at the top of the hill I take 10 quick steps away from the hill to make sure I don’t slow down. I also take 10 quick steps after sharp turns when the runners behind me can’t see me. It’s a great way to increase a lead from 10 meters to 20 meters all in a matter of seconds. When I get to a downhill, I use it as an opportunity to run faster with little energy expenditure. I let gravity provide the impetus to increase my speed. All I do is make sure I’m landing on my toes and I pump my arms faster to match the increase in my leg turnover. At the bottom of the hill I try to take advantage of the speed gravity has given me by maintaining the faster turnover for awhile.
As I come up to the 2 mile mark, I am tired but excited. I’ve run a good 2nd mile and have the leaders in sight. Even though I’m pretty tired there’s no way I can quit now. I want to give the leaders a run for their money. My attitude is, “If you’re going to beat The Chan-Man you’d better be prepared to work hard for it.” I feel myself getting into a rut where I’m staying the same distance behind the runner in front of me but not gaining any. I decide to surge for a few seconds just to get myself to run a little faster even if it’s not for long. My surge helps and I’m able to maintain the faster pace until I pass one runner. Then all of a sudden I look up and see that if I can maintain this surge for another 25 meters I can pass another runner. I do, and now I’m in 3rd place but I’m hurting. I feel like my arms are getting tight and I’m clenching my teeth so I shake out my arms and remind myself to stay relaxed. Everyone is a more efficient runner when they’re relaxed and fluid rather than tight. It’s the last half mile and I fall into a rut again. It’s getting harder and harder to maintain the pace. I see a tree 100 meters in front of me and promise myself that when I get to that tree I’m going to take 10 quick steps and surge again. If I don’t make an attempt to catch the two runners in front of me now, I’ll always ask myself, “What if..?” At the tree I take 10 quick steps and begin to gain on the 2nd place runner. The fact that I can do this excites me and temporarily blocks out the pain. I’m too excited to hurt now. I pass the 2nd place runner and when I do I go by hard just to let him know that I’m still strong and there’s no point in him trying to stay with me. I now set my sights on the leader. I’m about 10 meters behind. I can’t see the finish line yet but I know I must be close, probably less than 2 minutes away. I have to go now. I start my finishing kick and start closing the gap. 5 meters. 2 meters. Now I’m on his shoulder. We’re both going as fast as we can as we approach the finish line. With 100 meters to go he begins to pull away from me, I shift gears and go with him. But with 50 meters to go he pulls away from me and I just can’t seem to get any closer. Still, I run all out all the way through the finish line. I came up a bit short but I’m still proud. I ran a smart race, gave it everything I had, and came away with a good time.
As the story shows, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, the point is to do the best you can. I think all runners (not just the so-called fast runners) can benefit from trying some of the things mentioned in the articles. Happy Racing!!