The 10 Laws of racing

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30 May

The 10 Laws of racing

The 10 Laws of racing

Racing well is more than just training.  

To race fast and hit your PB’s, you have to practice pushing hard in race-like situations. 

We may not have real races right now, but you can still create a race situation to test where you are at.  PLUS, it will motivate you if you are in a slump, or simply give variety and interest to your regular training. 

Some runners perform well in races regardless of their preparation.  While they have been beaten consistently in training they have the ability to lift themselves to another level in a race. 

When their major goal race comes they can pull out a great performance far above what seems realistic.  These runners are not out late at night doing secret training.  They simply know to follow the ten laws of racing. 

While talent can assist these runners to perform well, preparation and mental strength has a lot to do with their success.  We tend to focus on the physical requirements of training with less regard for what can give us that edge in a race.

Remember that training is a means to an end and that end is a race.  Races are the icing on the cake of your running.  By following a few important ‘laws of racing’ you can ensure top performance when you want it the most.

You can apply these 10 Laws even when you are ‘racing’ at times when there are no actual races.  This gives you good practice and keeps you motivated.  

LAW #1 Set Realistic Goals

To race successfully you must have a realistic idea of how fast you can run.  The best way to see if your goals are realistic is to run a predictor race.  A race over a shorter distance a week or two out from your goal race will give you a benchmark that can be calculated out to your goal race distance. The mileage in the previous few months should let you know you can make the distance.  The formula to calculate race times is (5km time) x 2 + 1 to 2min = (10km time) *4.7= (marathon Time)/2.1 = (half mar. time).  Interruptions to your training will change your goals.  Grasping tightly to goals that are no longer realistic is a recipe for disaster.  Goals should be challenging improvements on what you have done before but they must be within your ability.  You should also adjust your goals based on the race conditions and how you feel on the day. 

LAW #2 To Race Fast, Train Fast

If you never train at race pace or faster, you will find it difficult and uncomfortable running fast in a race.  Racing is about running as fast as you can, even for the marathon.  Long slow distance does not simulate racing conditions.  Distance must be supplemented with speedwork and other races.  By running faster than race pace for part of your training you will be able to recover from a fast start or mid-race surge.  Pushing your limits in training will teach you how hard you can go and get you to perform at closer to your potential.  This fast training should not include your long runs.  If you run your long runs too fast the stress will be too great and you will be recovering for a week afterwards.  You can simulate the demands of a race without the stress by running the last 3km of your long run at marathon race pace.

LAW #3 Learn Pace Judgement

The way to get the best possible time in a race is to run as even a pace as possible.  The most common mistake is starting too fast.  The excitement and atmosphere of a race makes it feel easy at the start. 

Some people mistakenly believe that a time cushion should be created to ensure against the inevitable slowdown in the last few kilometres.  Throughout every race there is a combination of anaerobic and aerobic energy being used at all times.  The faster you go the more anaerobic waste products are produced.  These waste products interfere with the functioning of your muscles and will slow you down.  Produce too much lactic acid early in the race and you will not recover.  In training, you should practice pace judgement by guessing what you have done in your repetitions.  The shorter lead up races should be run at your major goal race pace to see what it feels like to run at goal pace in a race situation.  Keep a record of your splits during races to identify if you have done something wrong and learn to run better next time. 

LAW #4 Visualise Success

The first step towards running a good race is believing you can do it.  By visualising running strongly the whole race you set up the mental pattern to succeed.  In the race itself, you will be more relaxed and focused on the job because you have done it all before in your own mind.  Think about how you felt running well in previous races and try to replicate that state of mind in your goal race.

 

LAW #5 Make a Race Plan and Develop Tactical Skills

To become better at racing you must learn more about what makes you work.  Train your weaknesses but race with your strengths.  Race plans will ensure that you can get the best possible performance when you want it the most.  They will help you to focus on the importance of the race so you do not treat it as just another run.  Planning your races will also help you avoid mistakes and cope with unforeseen problems. 

Tactics can be important for any ability level to run a better race.  They are about running smarter than your opposition and using your fellow competitors as motivation.  Pace judgement is the foundation of all tactics.  Skills such as surging and kicking to the finish are tactical weapons that should be practised.  If you do not know your own limits than tactics can backfire and get you instead.  The best time to practice this is during speed sessions and lead up races.  Try to run the last repetition in your speed session the fastest.

LAW #6 Drink, Drink, Drink

Dehydration has a major effect on your performance.  Your ability to cool yourself becomes compromised the more dehydrated you become.  As you lose fluid your blood gets thicker and it is harder for your heart to push the blood through your body.  Dehydration and heat stroke are one of the most common and serious problems you will encounter in a race.  You should start drinking before you are thirsty.  Your body can only absorb about 150mls every 15minutes so do not overdo the drinking but drink frequently.  In events longer than 2 hours you need a drink with salts included.  If you only drink water then you may be at risk of diluting the electrolytes in the blood.  This can lead to a much more dangerous condition called hyponatremia which has similar symptoms to dehydration.  Drinking is the best way to top up your glycogen reserves with a sports drink with carbohydrates.  You can replace or supplement that with some gels if you wish.  Gels with caffeine will give you an extra boost when you need it at the end of your race.

 

LAW #7 Do Not Experiment

Your major goal race is not the time to experiment with a new drink or new clothes.  You should have practised everything in your lead up races or in training to see if there is a problem.  This includes everything down to your underwear.  Have nothing new but have everything in good condition.  

 

 

LAW #8 Check Your Equipment

In running races, your footwear is your most important equipment.  There is nothing worse than running a race in worn-out shoes.  The extra demands of a race can bring to light the inadequacies of your shoes.  You should check them before the race to make sure they still offer enough support and cushioning.  It is better to risk running in a new pair of shoes than trying to struggle through the race in worn-out ones. 

 

LAW #9 Make a Checklist

The morning of the goal race is a bad time to pack.  You should make a checklist of what you will need the week before the race and get everything together the night before.  The stress of the race morning is bad enough without forgetting your running shorts. 

 

 

LAW #10 Have Fun

Races should be peak experiences.  Be process-focused rather than outcome-focused.  Too much worry about your results will create anxiety and lead to poorer performances.  Be committed to doing the right things in your goal race that you have practised in training.  Then smile for the camera at the finish.

By Steve Manning – Founder of intraining Running Centre, Podiatrist, Coach & Runner

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