Fast-Finish Workouts to Finish Strong in Races

Teaching your mind and body to pick up the pace well into a run changes your outlook on perceived exertion.

We all know that the toughest part of any race, be it a 5K cross-country race, a 10K, or a marathon, is the last few miles. Many of us have watched helplessly as our race time goal slips away during the latter part of a race.

But there’s a way to train that will help avoid that outcome.

If you are training for a longer race, and you run the first part of your long run at a challenging pace, but then taper off and run the last part easy, guess what? That’s what you are teaching your body to do come race day.

So what’s the antidote? It could be the simplest training advice in the world, but it has a strong payoff: finish fast. We’re talking about a type of training run called the “fast finish” workout.  Sounds easy enough, but this workout requires both mental and physical toughness. And of course the good news is that it will teach you to be able to power through the last few miles of a race with greater speed and confidence.

The bulk of this workout is done at an easy pace, a full two minutes per mile slower than your 5K race pace. Depending on the length of your workout, the hard effort begins with at least two miles to go. So if you are putting in a 10-mile run, start to pick it up at around eight miles, and work up to close to race pace—maybe 10-15 seconds per mile off of your 5K pace.  Likewise, if you are training for a marathon and doing a 20 miler, you’ll want to close hard for the last four to five miles, running faster than your marathon goal pace. When it feels really taxing, remember that you can keep it going because you know the finish is close.

Dr. Gabriele Rosa, Italian cardiologist, sports medicine specialist and one the world’s greatest marathon coaches—whose athletes have won world cross country titles, world track titles, Olympic medals and set numerous world and marathon course records—is a big believer in the benefits of the fast-finish workout. In fact, he coached Kenyan Paul Tergat to use the workout in his build-up to the Berlin Marathon where he set the then world marathon record of 2:04:55.

Again, while it seems like simple advice, the ramifications are far-reaching. Teaching your mind and body to pick up the pace well into a run changes your outlook on perceived exertion. You realize that it is in fact a choice: you don’t have to slow down just because you sense fatigue. That’s right – this fast- finish workout has a strong mental component to it, and once practiced, it can become a habit!

Upcoming races: Saturday, August 25 at 8:00 a.m., the Rattler Run 5K at San Marcos High School- 2601 Rattler Road in San Marcos. Capt’n Karl’s Trail Series – Reveille Peak Ranch- 60K, 30K, 10K trail run. Starts 7:00 pm Saturday, August 25 and finishes 7am Sunday, August 26.

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