1 – Start in the right place
Most races will start in waves, or pens, or will in some other way be segregated by the speed at which you think you’re likely to cover the distance. My advice…ignore these completely.
In bigger races you will have committed early in your training to a target time and chances are you either faster or slower than that now. If you are faster you will get caught behind runners who are just a shade slower than you and chances are you’ll slow down too. If you are slower you must suffer the ignominy of racers breezing past you for the first few miles of your run. Either way, you are never going to perform to your best, so I give you two choices.
- Start at the front – And I mean right at the front. Lead the race from the start, be a hero, then relax as you reach the 20 metre mark and the whole field streams past you. Check out the video below of a chap who challenged himself to lead the London Marathon at 400 metres…Legend!
- Start at the back – This is my new favourite, especially on courses with lots of room to pass. Be that runner who drifts past the tail enders. Overtake the fun runners in your lycra and gps watch. Yes you may look silly taking it seriously as you outpace the three-legged charity entrants and old bloke on sticks but trust me, overtaking people is ace! Once you start you won’t want to stop and you’ll keep doing it all the way to the line! I discovered this by accident and ran a half marathon PB by 17 minutes…overtaking is cool!
2 – Get the right soundtrack
And by this I don’t mean load your ipod with the last 180bpm “Speed Garage Dancefloor Mash-up 5” album, for two reasons. Firstly music is a hugely personal thing, I run better to Iron Maiden than I do to dance music despite loving both, I even have a friend who swears by Simon & Garfunkel when he runs. But it’s well known that music can affect performance and you never know if Beyonce will hold you back or Bieber spur you on. Letting the ipod dictate your pace could well be stopping you from reaching your potential. Secondly, not every race allows headphones, and suddenly it’s just you and the pounding of feet and panting of breath for 10 long kilometres. And this is where the danger lies and my advice becomes important, because if you can hear someone else’s foot strike or breathing pattern then it is a perfectly natural reaction for you to imitate it. That means the shuffling asthmatic you can hear could soon be you! I found this during a recent trail 10k, when I realised my foot strike had synced perfectly with that of someone who struck the ground incredibly loudly behind me. It wasn’t my usual cadence, but I’d naturally drifted to a slower pace to match what I could hear. The same happened later in the race with a heavy breather, I felt my breathing change as subconsciously their desperate panting dictated my own actions. So, make sure if you don’t have a perfectly crafted playlist filling your earholes you don’t let anything else in their that might affect your race…but I don’t recommend running with your fingers in your ears.
3 – Get your nutrition right
But I ran my 10k PB after a heavy night of cider and a cornish pasty for breakfast, so what do I know.