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Create a Race Plan

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Create a Race Plan and finish feeling strong

Running a half marathon or marathon is an exhilarating challenge that tests both your physical and mental endurance. However, there are TWO common mistakes many runners make: starting too fast by being caught up in the excitement of the race and having an unrealistic time goal.   Either of these missteps can jeopardise your chances of achieving your best possible time and spoil what should be an enjoyable race experience.  

Here’s how you can create a strategic race plan to ensure you cross the finish line strong and proud.

The Danger of Going Out Too Fast 

It’s race day, and the atmosphere is electric. The adrenaline is pumping, the crowd is cheering, and you feel like you’re flying. This euphoria often leads runners to start faster than their goal pace. While it feels great initially, this burst of speed can have detrimental effects later in the race. Just 10 seconds per kilometer too fast at the start can translate to being a full minute slower per kilometer by the end. This dramatic slowdown can prevent you from reaching your potential.

Be Strategic in Choosing Your Start Pace 

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to running. Understanding your current race fitness is crucial for choosing a start pace that will set you up for success. You can gauge your fitness by calculating your recent times for shorter races like 5Ks and 10Ks, or even a recent half marathon. These times provide a realistic benchmark for what you can achieve in your upcoming race. 

For example, if you recently ran a 10K at an average pace of 4:30/km, this data can help you estimate a suitable pace for a longer race. Online race pace calculators can also be helpful tools, converting your recent race times into predicted finish times for longer distances. Using these tools and your race history, you can determine a start pace that aligns with your current fitness level. 

Start Slow and Build Up 

To avoid the common pitfall of starting too fast, begin the race at a pace slower than your goal. If your target is to run 5 minutes per kilometer, start at a more conservative pace of 5:15/km. This might feel counterintuitive, especially when you’re full of energy and surrounded by faster runners, but it’s a crucial part of a successful race strategy

Warming Up and Settling In

By starting slightly slower, you give your body the chance to warm up and settle into a rhythm. After the first 3 to 5 kilometers, your muscles will be primed, your breathing steady, and you’ll have found your groove. At this point, you can start to pick up the pace to slightly faster than your goal pace, aiming for around 4:55/km. 

Achieving and Surpassing Your Goal Pace 

As you approach the halfway mark of your race, you should be on track to meet your average goal time. By running faster than your target pace during this middle section, you create a buffer that can be incredibly useful in the latter stages of the race. Maintaining this faster pace can help you finish stronger, and if fatigue sets in during the final kilometers, you’ll have a time cushion to fall back on. 

The Final Push 

The last stretch of any race is where your training, strategy, and mental fortitude all come together. Thanks to the buffer you’ve built in the middle of the race, you can afford to slow down slightly without worrying about missing your target time. However, if you’re feeling good, keep pushing through to the finish line. The sense of accomplishment as you complete your race, knowing you executed your plan perfectly, will be immensely rewarding. 

Summary: Your Path to a Successful Race 

Start Slow: Begin the race 15 seconds per kilometer slower than your goal pace. 

Warm Up and Settle In: Use the first 3 to 5 kilometers to let your body adjust. 

Increase Pace: After warming up, run slightly faster than your goal pace. 

Create a Buffer: Maintain this faster pace to build a time cushion for the final kilometers. 

Finish Strong: Use your buffer to manage the last part of the race, ensuring you hit your goal time even if you slow down a bit.

By following this race plan, you’ll avoid the common mistake of starting too fast and instead, set yourself up for a strong, steady, and successful race. Remember, patience and strategy are just as important as physical preparation.

Happy running! 

Steve and Margot Manning 

intraining coaches and podiatrists