Runners World Articles: Archives
Hone Your Racing Skills
Every race has a beginning, middle and end. Chances are you run
stronger in one of those segments than in the others. Maybe you
run well during the first or second part, only to peter out at the
end. Or maybe you easily sprint to the finish and then wonder whether
you could have pushed harder earlier in the race.
Here are the most common scenarios experienced by the runners I
coach. Under each, Iíve described a core workout that will help
you race more efficiently-in other words, faster.
You run slow in the middle and at the end.
When you race, do you feel like a battery thatís slowly losing
its charge? To feel stronger from beginning to end, you need to
complete longer runs.
Core workout: Go for a long run once a week. Lengthen
the run by 1 mile each week until you reach 10 miles. Then add 1
mile every other week and race on the alternate weekends. Ideally,
your long run should total at least 1 to 2 miles more than your
race distance, but no more than 8 miles for a 5-K or 15 miles for
Running longer than your race distance applies to races up to the
half-marathon; the marathon, however, is another matter. While running
farther than 26 miles in training will make the race seem easier,
these distances arenít realistic for many runners. So try to lengthen
your longest marathon-training run by a couple of miles. If you
completed 18 miles before your last marathon, run 20 this time.
If you do 20 this time, try for 22 next time.
During your long runs, keep your pace 2 minutes per mile slower
than your 5-K race pace. If youíve never raced a 5-K, go slowly
enough so that you wonít huff and puff during the last 2 to 3 miles
of the long run.
You start fast and finish slow.
If you like to start out fast, thatís okay. But you need to train
your body to keep pushing the pace, even when you get tired.
Core workout: Do speedwork that consists of 400-meter
repetitions. Start with four to six repeats and add one a week until
you reach a maximum of eight to 10 repeats for the 5-K or 12 to
14 for the 10-K or longer. Begin the workout at goal pace, gradually
speeding up with each 400. Your last 400 should be considerably
faster than your first.
You run slow in the middle miles.
Do you often lose focus during the middle of your races? Are you
unable to maintain pace midrace? With the proper training, you can
keep your mental and physical momentum going in the middle miles.
Core workout: Do 400-meter repeats. Start with
four and progress to 12, completing the first third of your session
a few seconds slower than goal pace. Do the 400s in the middle of
the workout about 5 to 7 seconds faster than goal pace. Run the
end of the workout at or slightly slower than goal pace.
You run slow most of the way but finish fast.
If you can kick easily toward the finish line, youíre saving too
much for the end of the race. Sure, it feels good to pass lots of
runners in the last 200 meters, but you could lower your time significantly
if you picked up the pace during the beginning and middle of the
Core workout: Do each 400-meter repeat about 3
to 5 seconds faster than your goal pace. Recover for 1 minute after
each repeat. Start with four to six repeats and increase by two
each week until you reach a maximum of 12.
I canít guarantee youíll clock a personal best in every race you
run. But if you include the right core workout in your training,
youíll run your races more evenly, and your times will improve.
World, August 2000, p. 40
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