I remember thinking…. “It just feels so easy!”
This is me many years back when I was trying to figure out this long distance running thing.
I, like many runners, had difficulty pacing on race day. At nearly every race I found myself “banking time.” First, I hoped it would offset me slowing down later. Two, as I previously mentioned — it just felt so damn easy early on!
I did this time and time again. It sucked.
At nearly every race I watched my goal finish time fade out of reach. What started off strong (and too fast) lead me to a painful fight to even continue running.
Back in 2011, I had enough. I was sick of struggling to the finish line and slowing with every passing mile.
Here I was, spending months and hundreds of miles preparing for a single event and I was completely negating it all within the first half of my race.
Over the next couple years, I refined a strategy that has lead me numerous full and half marathon PRs. Including one well-paced run where I didn’t even use a GPS watch! (Pittsburgh Marathon 2013, my wife’s watch died and I gave her mine).
Knowing that the racing season is upon us, I wanted to share my strategy with you in hopes that it can help you, too.
If you’re interested in learning how to avoid the inevitable late-race slowdown and faults of “banking time,” I encourage you to read on!
Below, I show you the exact system I use to run even, smooth, and strong on race day.
#1. The Race Week
Prepping for a smooth and even race starts the week prior. If your race is not on Sunday, feel free to slide the days appropriately.
Warm Up & Cool Down = 5 Minutes of Very Light Running
Repeat = 5 Minutes at Goal Pace, 2 Minutes Walking or Light Jog
span stye=”color: red; font-weight: bold;”>**Note: Adjust plan to your mileage. If accustomed to running 3 days a week, skip days where you wouldn’t typically run.
#2. Dial in Race Pace
Using the schedule above, I head to the track (with the exception of race day eve).
Example Goal Pace: 8:00/mile
Distance Traveled in Repeat: 0.625 miles
Run for five minutes and check every 200 or 400 for feedback on pace. For an 8-minute mile, this equates to 1-minute per 200m or 2-minutes per 400m.
Using the feedback from my lap times, I take notice of my breathing, effort, and leg turn over.
Using the feel from repeat one, I work to dial in race pace to a feel, rather than a dependency on my watch.
After checking my pace after 200m, I “go black.” With no information on pacing, distance, or time, I look to run completely on feel. In the instance of running an 8:00/mile, I lap my watch at 0.625 miles (5 minutes at 8:00/mile) to see how I did.
Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth Repeat
If I (or you) botched my (your) second repeat when running on feel I suggest repeating the same process until you are dialed in.
Once pacing is close, it’s time to go black from the outset for remaining repeats.
Start your watch, run the desired distance, and see how long it takes. Be focused on the aforementioned feel (breath, effort, and legs).
Of course, none of that matters on race day if you throw caution to the wind. “This feels easy!” should be a warning sign early on – not atonement that you can maintain it to the finish.
I have ruined months of training and hundreds of miles by going out too hard on race day. It’s my hope that the plan above gives you the structure to run a steady and even now and in future races.