Training for races is hard. Running races is hard. Why do we do this again? Planning out your race strategy can help lead to success. Below I share a few racing strategies I've used in the past and how it went down.
From the Gun (Positive Splits)
Positive splitting a race is probably one of the tougher ways to go about racing, this involves going out hard and fast holding on for dear life. This is a rough way to go about a race and for most folks will not be successful. I've done this in the past at a local 5k and ended up on a terrible death march for the last 1.5 miles. My overall time was OK but I felt absolutely terrible about it and have learned of much better ways to go about racing.
Let Them Do The Work (Use Your Competition)
If you're at a 5k where you know there will be people around your time, it can be helpful to let them do some of the work for you. Since you're on our awesome running club you probably have someone just a little faster than you available to work with at a goal race. Using your competition or teammates is a great way to push yourself to a fast time. With the only thought in your mind being "stay with them" your worries of going out too fast, too slow etc...go away. Just stay with them and let them pull you through to a fast time. It's important to do the work to get to that faster time leading up to the event but when you're ready to hit it, it can help to have someone there.
I've done this at the Gaspee Days 5k, I know at this race there will always be someone to pull me along to a fast time. Two years back Jake and Bronson to helped pull me through to a faster time. They crushed me over the last mile but, the first two were much easier than if I had struck out on my own.
Finish Strong (Negative Splits)
Negative splitting is how I approach most of my races these days. This is when you start off a little slower and finish a little faster. This works especially well at the 5k and in the longer distances like the ten mile or half marathon distances. With this strategy you can feel out the race a little more and decide when to really start moving.
I employed this strategy at the Narragansett Half and Blessing of the Fleet races two years back with great success. Knowing I was in fairly good shape helped but racing smart and not getting ahead of myself was huge. In races it can be easy to get caught up in the crowd but when you go into the race with the goal of negative splitting it forces you to hold back and run your own race.
This is when you set out with the mind set of hitting a certain pace for each mile of the race. Want to run 8min pace for a 5k? Then when that gun goes off you settle into 8min pace simple as that. This can be tricky depending on the course you're running but allows for a much smoother race, you won't go out too hard or leave too much in the tank.
I used this strategy at the Run4Kerri this year, I thought I'd settle into my pace and carry it through the entire race and it seemed to work well. With lots of fast people in this particular race it was tough to not get carried away, but sticking to the race plan helped make the race a success. It also helped that the course was flat aside from a short hill at mile 3.
It Comes to You
Sometimes you go into an event with a strategy and all heck breaks loose. Maybe you want to use a buddy to run a fast time and he or she gets sick! Now what? Maybe you start with the intention of negative splitting and your first mile is way too fast! This is where your training comes in handy, learning what certain paces feel like is a tremendous weapon you can use in your race. You won't go out too fast, you know what your goal pace feels like.
Racing can be fun, especially when you have an idea of what your plan is. The one takeaway from this post should be, don't go into a race without a plan. Whether its to negative split, run even splits, use your surroundings etc...have a plan. The number two takeaway is be flexible, things change and sometimes they change in the middle of the race, do not panic, adapt.
Hope this helps! See you on the Rhode!