Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Feel that rythmn

The last two sunday's i've been lucky enough to work with two groups of runners in Somerset who are preparing for a spring half marathon or full marathon. The focus of both training days has been specific preparation so both groups spent a good amount of time on the track learning to feel their race pace and what I noticed and learned is well worth sharing.

We know, because we have either seen it or experienced it, that if you go out too fast for your fitness level then the later stages of a race are going to be ugly and you can lose loads of time. And equally we know that as runners we tend to overestimate our fitness. So if we are relying on the thinking part of our brain to determine our race pace and then just jump in and do it on race day the odds are strong that we are going to get it wrong !

So practicing race pace becomes really important. Many people don't do it, certainly not to the point where it is second nature. What we did these past weekends was start the athletes at the race pace their under distance times suggested were realistic (Daniels VDOT tables help to do this). Now clearly predicting marathon pace from a 5k race time can be tricky so use the closest recent under distance performance to find the pace.

Using an out and back format on the track the runners were able to run one rep getting feedback on their pacing from a trackside coach and then for the return rep they were on their own with the idea being to see how close to the start line they could get.

So what did we see. Not surprisingly some folks were better than others at first for a variety of reasons but generally the early reps with quite variable. And over time the runners got better and better and judging their pace. Self awareness also started to develop along the lines of 'this pace feels fine but not for a full marathon so i'm going to run a bit slower'.

After 40 minutes of running at race pace almost everyone was really getting the feel for their pace to the point where we could mess things up by putting in a few short reps at a significantly faster pace and then have the athletes drop straight back into race pace.

So if you are doing a long race this spring take some time to practice running at your race rythmn. There are big gains to be had from just a few workouts like this.

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