What’s The Best Racing Strategy?
Whether you want to beat your own records or win a race, you will have to establish a racing strategy in order to perform well. There are three main racing strategies in long-distance running, and each one can work.
- Negative Split – The first half of your race is slower than the second half
- Even Split – You run a consistent pace for the entire race
- Positive Split – The first half of your race is faster then the second half
Regardless of the distance of the race, I see people go out too fast all the time. Weather it’s a 5K or a marathon.
At a 5K, people will bolt across the start line and then slow down or walk before they hit the first mile. I always say that anyone can run a fast mile. It’s mile two and three that count in a 5K.
At a marathon it’s easy for anyone to get carried away by their nerves and the crowd. Even if you are not fit to run a full marathon, you can feel great for the first few miles.
I’m a big fan of negative or even splits. If you go out too fast or push too hard during the first half of a half or full marathon you may be forced to run (or walk!) the second half of the race.
I’ve run positive split races but never intentionally. I’ve started races feeling in shape and prepared and gone out too fast. What may seem like a good pace can turn into a disaster for several reasons.
You may not have hydrated or fueled properly before a race. This can happen if you do not have a pre-race routine to manage this, or you did not have time to go through your routine.
If you did not look at the course map, there may be hills early in the race you do not know about.
Sometimes the conditions turn against you. If you didn’t dress properly or something unexpected happens during the race, you may have to run positive splits.
This Nation of Running article suggests that positive splits may be good for new runners. For positive splits you run faster than your goal pace, “bank” the time you get from running faster than your goal pace and then use it up in the second half of your race.
You just have to hope you have planned and trained well enough to have enough juice left for the second half of the race.
I’ve done this for several marathons but over the years have changed my mind. There is nothing worse than having to walk during the last five miles of a marathon. Between 15 and 20 miles is when the wheels come off the bus for most runners who flame out. It sucks.
With age and experience I’ve come to the conclusion that even or negative splits are the best running strategy.
Long distance running requires you to manage your energy. Maintaining control of my pace and fueling during the race have proven to work best for me.
Some of my best races have been half marathons where I ran negative splits. They may not have been my fastest races but I finished running hard and feeling great.
Talk about a runner’s high!
These running strategies apply mainly to marathons and half marathons. 10Ks require some energy management but 5Ks are best run flat out. If you don’t feel like you are about to die for most of a 5K, you’re not running hard enough.
I am certainly not a professional runner and I’ve only won one 5K in my life. A total shocker!
You can train and run races casually and have a good time. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But if you want to run your best you need to train and you need a running strategy for each distance that you run.
One of the true joys in my life is running a well run race.
What’s your running strategy?