Just how fast or how slow should you go at the start of a race? Running coach Andrew Cheong gives his advice.
Signing up for a race may seem like a good idea, but it can become a heart-thumping challenge even before you cross the start line on THE day. Questions that could be racing in your head include: ‘’How fast or slow should I go?’’, “Should I run faster at the beginning, or hold back and conserve energy?”, “If I slow down when I hit those hills, will I be able to catch up after?”
As the saying goes, those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Logically, a shorter race like the Shape Run 10km will not need as much planning compared to say, a 42km marathon. Nonetheless, it is good to develop a race plan to help you run your best at the right amount of effort. So, how should you do it?
Steady does it
An analysis of many marathon finishing times has proven that the most efficient way to run is to adopt an even pace, where every km, also known as splits, is at the same, steady speed. Consistent pacing is always better so that your body does not have to cope with sudden increases in demand for energy.
(Also read: How to Avoid Muscle Cramps While Running)
Monitor your Rate of Perceived Exertion
However, as you strive to run an even pace, you will need to increase your effort gradually. This Rate of Perceived Exertion (ROPE), while subjective, is a fairly accurate way of measuring the intensity of your cardio workout. Your ROPE will rise as the race progresses. Naturally, it will go up if you were to maintain the same speed going uphill.
Aim to start slow, and finish fast
Most race participants start too fast in the first half of the race and slow down at the end, resulting in a positive split. When you start too fast, you might end up cramping, or worse – not completing the race, especially if it’s a long race. To avoid that, you’ll need to understand your fitness level, then set an appropriate finish time as a target and keep an even pace throughout.
On the other hand, elite runners run the second half of the race faster than the first half, or what is called negative splits. This is usually because they are competing for a podium position. When vying for a top finish, commonly used racing tactics involve holding back, eyeing your competitors and out-kicking them at the end.
Follow the right group of pacers
Doing so will help you run an even-paced race. At last year’s Shape Run, most of the pacer groups finished within 10 seconds of their target time, so you can be assured that by following them this year, you will achieve your target timing. See you at Shape Run 2019!
(Also read: 7 Running Tips to Help You Go Farther Than Before)
About the author
Andrew Cheong is the founder and Head Coach of SSTAR.fitness, an endurance sports coaching service. Since 2010, Andrew has been dedicated to training runners of all abilities, for races ranging from 5km to the Marathon and beyond. He has a Diploma in Sports Science, is a certified Distance Running Coach by the Road Running Clubs of America, a qualified FISAF personal trainer, an IAAF Track and Field Certified and a Mental Toughness Coach. Andrew has completed more than 30 marathons and Ironman races. He and his wife were the first Singaporean couple to be awarded the Abbott Six Star World Marathon Major recipient in 2017.