What would it look like if you went into a road race with endless amounts of usable energy? There are multiple reasons why some pre-planning and due diligence can save you multiple minutes during your next long distance race.
According to Barry Smyth, starting too fast too early may wreck your marathon by as much as 60-minutes based on data from more than 400,000 Chicago Marathon finishers. But that’s not all: being in the right starting spot of a race and practicing taking nutrition can also save you many precious minutes during a race.
Using these 3 strategies: minimizing surging early on by being in the correct corral, practicing taking fluids during workouts and long runs, and using a mantra, can increase your performance with little race day effort being spent.
In-Control Early Pace
To begin, saving energy on race day can be achieved through being in the correct starting corral to prevent running too fast too soon. Starting a race with people of your same ability and potential finish time alleviates much of the angst of starting a race too fast and hitting the proverbial wall.
Competitor Running suggests that starting with runners of your same ability manages the flow of runners and guarantee that everyone moves forward at the same speed, without roadblocks. If you want to run the most even pace you can, especially at the start of a race, run with people who have a similar race pace as you. This will allow you to run freely without dodging slower runners.
Similarly, you don’t want to be in the wrong corral so that you don’t go out too fast early on in the race. According to Jeff Gaudette, who writes for Runner’s World, says that “every current world record, from the 1500m to the marathon, has been set by an athlete running negative splits”. If world records are set with negative splits, it’s even more important that non-elites practice this approach for optimizing their race performance. Knowing that starting conservative and pacing are important are just one piece of the puzzle to increase your race day performance.
Hydration and Nutrition
Another way to save energy on race day is by practicing your fluid and nutrition intake during long runs and workouts. If you can maintain your race pace while taking water, sports drinks, or food you will save valuable seconds or minutes. Taking fluids and nutrition while still running fast takes practice. While it’s not something you should try for the first time on race day, it is something that takes just a little bit of practice to get it right.
In another article written by Jeff Gaudette for Competitor Runner, Jeff suggests practicing your marathon routine (taking fluids and nutrition) during the last 8 weeks prior to your race. Practicing this skill will allow you to, literally, stomach taking in fluids/nutrition. When you are able to efficiently master this you will be able to power right through an aid station without stopping to sip on water and hoping and wishing it doesn’t slosh around in your belly. Not only is it super important to prepare your body, it’s also necessary to prepare your mind.
The Use of Mantras
Preparing your mind for the task at hand is very important to save valuable packets of energy. Joyce Meyer might have said it best: “Where the mind goes, the man follows”. Using a mantra can guide your mind and body into starting or completing strenuous or difficult tasks more efficiently and with less energy. Having a go-to saying [“smooth and fast”, “quick feet”, “everything I got”] that you’ve practiced in training can make those challenging miles much easier. Amanda Brooks of RuntotheFinish.com said it best when she said, “your training is only as good as your thinking”. So next time you’re contemplating whether you should go out for a run or not, or when you’re struggling to hit repeats at the right effort, think about using a mantra to get your mind and your body on the same page. Because as your mind goes, so goes your body.
Practice Makes Perfect
While there are many more ways to conserve energy on race day, starting easy and in the right corral, practicing taking nutrition, and using a mantra are all effective strategies to save valuable time on race day. The first few minutes of a race are the most critical, so being mindful of your early pace can be the difference between a great race and a dud. You’ll also want to make sure your race day routine is practiced to save on burning energy. Also, if you’re going to use a supplement on race day, I can’t stress enough how important it is to have practiced it well before race day. Finally, when your mind is in a good spot, your body will comply and use less energy to complete the same amount of work. At the end of the day, if we’ve done all the work and put in all the miles, don’t we want to see all that hard work pay off with a good time?
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