Four Critical Moments in Your Marathon Performance #running #marathon

running-advice-bugThe marathon is a long race and requires a level of precision to hit a specific goal time. If you’re running for a specific time, there are to me four key moments that will determine how well you do, whether you meet your goals, and whether you’ll hit the wall or sail on through it. Today, let’s take a look at those four moments and think about why each of these is critical to your race day performance.

Runners cross into Vancouver at the Vancouver Marathon

Runners cross into Vancouver at the Vancouver Marathon

All running races require a level of pre-planning that goes way back to the beginning of the season when your training schedule was constructed. Having laid out a plan and done the work, race day is the execution of the strategy that was embodied by that plan. Where many marathon runners mess it all up is by changing up their goals or strategy on race day — or to put it another way, by forgetting what they did in training or not following their own plan. That’s why these four moments become so critical: they keep you glued to the plan that you’ve trained to execute.

Moment #1 — Twenty minutes before the race — My first and perhaps most critical moment comes just before the race. Before taking a single step of the race, and before the gun goes off, I like to spend five minutes of quiet reflection thinking through my training and what I have set out to do in this particular race. Twenty minutes is usually just before I hit the start corral, after my warm-up, and before all the singing and fireworks start. It’s also when I take a first energy gel to get the energy pump primed. I spent a few minutes asking myself some key questions and reminding myself of what I set out to do. “How did this training go in comparison to how I thought it might go?”; “How are the conditions today as compared to the way that I envisioned them?”; “I am ready to run XX time and that’s what I plan to do.” This is my final review of how things went and a reminder that grounds me to my actual capability on the day.

In my last national Duathlon competition this Summer I recall giving myself a reminder that I had not come to that race to win, but only to qualify for a spot on the next year’s team. The course wasn’t what I expected and my training had been weak due more than expected travel. Pulling myself out of the pre-race hype right before the race, helped me calm down and have more reasonable expectations. I did this while lying on the grass and talking about my expectation with my partner. She helped me remember what I was trying to do on the day and this stayed with me all through the race.
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Racing — Pace Yourself

running-advice-bugI know, I know. You’re thinking, ‘Coach Joe is writing another piece on pacing.’ (You’re correct.) And that he’s going to tell us how important it is to pace ourselves during races. (Also correct.) But I promise I’m taking a different look at pacing today, so bear with me.

I’m a big proponent of runners really knowing their race pace — training enough at it so that it is ingrained in their memories and that it almost becomes a part of their subconscious on race day. I say it all the time — practice your goal pace so that you know what it feels like and then you can just go out and do it in your race.

This weekend, I demonstrated for myself why this is so important. Let me tell you the story.

I was running in my first 5,000M race on a track. I’ve run more 5K road races than I can count, but I’d never run one on the track. I had a fairly good idea of the pace that I needed to run to meet my goal — I wanted to run about 1:17-1:18 per lap. This would have brought me in about 15 seconds faster than my road PR in the 5K and I really thought I could run this.

There were a number of my friends in the race, so before-hand we talked about the pace and there was an agreement that most of the group was going for this particular pace target. That was good, because it meant that I could follow along and let the group do the pacing. That’s always nice, but this is also where “pace yourself” starts to become important.

There was a fairly large field assembled for the race — at least 30 runners I would say — and at least 10 of them were going to try to run in the 16:00 range — so it was a quality field. The race got underway and the front group stayed together right about on pace through the first 400M. But then the group broke up and I was left with a decision to make. I hadn’t really thought about looking at my own watch on the splits and I was running behind someone that I know who runs about the same speed that I do. I also know that he is a good pacer with a solid sense of pacing. I made a decision to stick on him and let him do the pacing.
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Running and Racing — The Power of Pacing

running-advice-bugI feel like I’ve written a million articles espousing the idea that pacing is important to marathon running and road racing. I’ve said it in a lot of different ways, whether it be that even pacing is a great strategy and understanding that pacing is important. Pacing, pacing, pacing, I seem to say over and over again.

Yet, I’ve never said it this way: pacing is power.

Let me explain. In a 10K race this weekend, I did what I normally do — I went out at the pace that I wanted to run. I ignored what the other leaders were doing and “let them go”. It might have even appeared to the other five guys at the front of the race that I was a bit aloof or unaware of what they were doing. There was a moment about 1/2 mile into the race when one runner moved into the lead and everyone else needed to decide what to do. All the others guys went with the leader. I kept running my pace. And there was this one runner that even gave me a look as he went by that kind of said to me, “see ya’ round buddy.”

They may have been thinking that I was going out conservatively, but what I was really doing was running my pace. I have a keen sense of it and I wasn’t going to get sucked in to running someone else’s pace. I know, as you should know, how fast I can run. I also know how many people can sustain speeds faster than me — and you should know that as well.

But here’s the thing. Every time I write about pacing and every time I start out a race trying to run an even pace, I always have this thought that I’m being conservative. And somehow I think that people may read what I’m writing and think that I’m telling people to not be aggressive in their racing. It’s as if by saying that people should pace themselves, I’m somehow saying that they can’t win.

That’s the last thing that I’m saying. What I’m really saying is that you need to know the pace that you can sustain for the entire race. And when you do, a funny thing happens. You watch the people around you go out too fast and then you reel them back in. One at a time, you go by them. They say, “nice job man” and “dude, you rock”. And they are fading, dying, slowing down. They are being aggressive at the start. What you should do is be aggressive at the finish.
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