Mastering our pacing is a skill which takes time and practice. It’s one of the fundamentals of running racing, and it’s normally easy to spot those that have not quite got it right! Of course, everybody has their own goals and their own approach to running in an event, however here’s a few pointers which hopefully can be of help, especially to the newer runners or those running in their first event.
Control The Early Stages
It’s natural to get a big surge of adrenaline at the start of a race, and therefore it’s very important to hold back during the first 1km, even if you feel very strong. Let others make the go-too-fast-at-the-start error, and enjoy picking off those runners after the first 1km as they tire or walk! Being positioned within the right section of the race start is probably the best way of ensuring you get your pace right at the start of your run. If you’re too far forward, you’ll likely get sucked into running too fast, and if you’re too far back, you’ll run the risk of being hemmed in. If in doubt, err on the side of caution.
It’s definitely a good idea to take your time at water stations, but only for the purposes of drinking, not for resting or chit-chatting or taking photos! It’s easy to lose a lot of time at water stations if you are not disciplined, so set it clear in your head that they are for hydration rather than rest. The longer you stop, the harder it is to get moving again!
Don’t Rely Solely On Your Watch
A GPS watch is a pretty standard gadget these days, but it’s easy to get sucked into the habit of letting the watch rule your run. Find your target pace as quickly as possible in a race and then try to ignore the watch, apart from perhaps checking your 1km splits. The more practice you do in training of running by feel, the less you will need to rely on your watch, and the more you can concentrate on your running form and on enjoying the experience. And don’t be afraid to run without a watch from time to time, even in a race; you might just find that you run faster without it!
Be Smart On Hills
Don’t be afraid of hills, but do give them the respect they deserve. Shorten your stride and maintain your cadence for the uphill, and keep looking ahead, rather than down. Run steadily but surely up the hill and then try to accelerate as soon as you reach the top of the hill. If you’re really out of breath at the top, then you’ve probably gone too fast on the uphill, and you won’t be able to enjoy the benefits of the downhill. If you know your race is going to be on a hilly route, then be sure to include plenty of hills in your training!
Push A Fast Finish
No matter how tired you are, your body can always push hard on the final stretch of a run or race. It’s 100% mental by that point, and more often than not the process of increasing your cadence is enough to get you running much faster and feeling much stronger. You’ll soon get a burst of adrenaline too when you see the finish line, so make sure to drain the tank for the final burst! This is also something you can practice in your training.
Written by Jeff Ross
Head Coach, Total Running Club