With your training nearing its peak in the next couple of weeks, it’s time to think about a strategy for race day, writes Robert McNamara
I meet faster, better and more experienced runners than me in every race I do.
I always listen to what they have to say.
Soaking up the information they have accrued over the years is the main way I improve.
I take their experiences and adapt them to my own regime.
Nearly always, it’s an improvement on what I already do.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is to know your race in advance.
Anything can happen on the day to change your result but having a plan means you’re more likely to get your time goal.
You should try and calculate your race pace and decide on a positive split (first half quicker) or negative split (second half quicker) in the weeks before.
A steady pace over a number of miles is key to getting over the line in time and knowing what you’re comfortable with will be a big help.
You can only have so much knowledge before you have to do something for the very first time.
Only through experience can you truly learn.
The first few training runs I very did I ran as fast as I could for as long as I could. I soon learned this was futile as it couldn’t be maintained.
My first few marathons were run raw and were not planned very well. I was blowing up after 17-20 miles because I didn’t have the stamina to maintain a fast pace.
I realised that I needed to find a pace that suited me because I was tiring way too early in the race.
I’ve never been the quickest. Even in my soccer playing days I knew my pace was my weakness.
I’m tall and awkward with flat feet, so I’m not the most agile.
However, I can run for long periods of time at my own speed and that varies between eight and 10 minutes per mile, generally, for a marathon.
I can push beyond that in a 10K or a half-marathon but going any quicker in a full would see me hit the wall at some point because I’m not designed for it.
The more marathons I do, the more comfortable I feel during the race and I no longer blow-up because I train based on the limits of my capabilities.
Sure, I still get tired, but I’m able to cope with it as I’m aware of what my body will allow me to do.
I prefer a positive split race because I know I’ll have diminishing returns in the second half of the race and having time in the bank is reassuring to me.
Just this week I ran the Limerick marathon. I knew beforehand that I wanted a positive split of 1:50/2:05 - allowing me a five minute cushion for a sub-four race.
I was feeling good on the day and managed to run the second half quicker than expected meaning I came in for a personal best of 3:50.
I didn’t expect it and was delighted.
Knowing what I was going to do and executing it perfectly meant I had a little bit extra to give.
Give yourself that chance by getting your tactics right.
Slow and steady wins the race. Well, not quite. But you know what I mean!
Rob is running the Cork City Marathon this year to raise funds for the Mercy Foundation Cancer Appeal. You can visit his charity page and donate here
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