Racing Strategies from Dr. Jason Karp

race-pace strategy 580
Photo Credit: http://active.com

Most runners run races without giving much thought as to how they are going to run the race.  They just pay their entry fee and run, without any intention to their actions, hoping for a good result.  Successful racing takes knowledge, planning, execution, and a little courage.  When you develop and execute your race plan, you’ll achieve your potential and run better races.  Try these racing strategies to improve yourself when it comes to running a race.

Strategy 1: Know your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and capitalize on them. 

Knowing your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses can help you design a race plan that will help you beat him or her.  For example, if you know that your opponent always goes out too fast and gets slower with each successive mile, you can feel confident that if you let him go in the beginning and stay relatively close, you’ll pass him late in the race when he fatigues.

Strategy 2: Visualize your race before it happens. 

Visualizing your race before you run it allows you to experience it beforehand, making the experience familiar and thus making you less nervous.  If the experience is familiar, you will feel more comfortable.  Practice visualizing your race each day for a few days before it, seeing the whole experience. Then, when it’s time for your race, you will have already run it.

Strategy 3: Know what pace you can sustain in the race.

Learn from your workouts and know going into the race what pace you can expect to sustain.

Strategy 4: Have specific, meaningful goals in mind for your race.

By having specific goals for your races, it allows you to get away from thinking about the race as a whole, which can be overwhelming.  It also allows for something positive to be taken from each race, even if the overall outcome is disappointing.  Have one or two goals for each race that are within your control.

Strategy 5: Control your nerves at the starting line.

Every runner gets nervous before a race.  That’s perfectly normal.  The important thing is to not let your nervousness get the better of you and prevent you from running a winning race.

Strategy 6: Run even or negative splits. 

The best way to run your fastest possible race and beat others is by running the second half of the race at a pace that is equal to or slightly faster than the first half (even or negative splits).  To negative split a race requires accurate knowledge of your fitness level, confidence to stick to your plan when others have taken the early pace out too fast, and a good dose of self-restraint.

Strategy 7: Stay close to your opponent at all times. 

If a large gap opens up between you and your opponent, it can be very difficult to close the gap and beat him or her.  So try to do whatever you can to remain close to your opponent at all times during the race.

Strategy 8: Keep changing the pace. 

While the best way to run your fastest possible time in a race is to run as even splits as possible, sometimes whom you beat and the place in which you finish matters more than the time on the clock.  In those races, a great winning racing strategy is to keep changing the pace on your opponent, in effect turning the race into a very hard fartlek.

Strategy 9: Own the process. 

Racing isn’t something that just happens. Know when to hold back and when to take control of certain moments in the race. Become an integral part of the racing process and take responsibility for your thoughts and actions, before, during, and after the race.

Strategy 10: Become your own hero.

There is a moment in every race when it starts to feel uncomfortable.  While it’s a natural human tendency to back off from physical discomfort for self-preservation, one of the things that makes runners unique is their penchant for seeking it out.  It is in that moment in the race that you learn about yourself and what you are willing to do to meet your goal.  You want to walk away from your race feeling like you gave it everything you had.  You want to be proud of yourself.  Racing gives you the opportunity to become someone better than you currently are.

Jason Karp is a nationally-recognized speaker, writer, and owner of RunCoachJason.com, a state-of-the-science running coaching and personal training company in San Diego. He is the 2011 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and holds a Ph.D. in exercise physiology. Dr. Karp has written more than 200 articles for international fitness, running, and coaching magazines, is the author of four books, including 101 Developmental Concepts & Workouts for Cross Country Runners (Coaches Choice, 2010), 101 Winning Racing Strategies (Coaches Choice, 2011) and Running for Women (Human Kinetics, 2012), and is a frequent speaker at national fitness and coaching conferences. His books can be purchased here at www.runcoachjason.com. Dr. Karp’s books can be purchased directly from his website at http://www.runcoachjason.com/merchandise.

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