Nailing Your Race Pace on Race Day

No doubt about it, there are some big races coming up. This weekend, the Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Half Marathons are happening, and the 3M Half Marathon is just one week away, and the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon is next month on February 18.

For races as close as 3M, your training is done; what remains is tapering down and nailing your race pace on the big day.

Of course, you have to become acquainted with what your race pace feels like during training: that’s a given. Once you get a sense of the perceived effort of your chosen race pace, you can then dial it in on race day to hit your time goal.

Race Day (Half Marathon)
Start by getting up at least three hours before the race. Run for five to six minutes and do some stride-outs. Eat a light breakfast (toast with almond butter and honey works great!), and have some coffee or tea if you are a regular caffeine consumer like most of us are. Use the restroom, and head off to the starting line.

Knowing that you are right on or near goal pace is a positive affirmation that can boost your confidence as the race progresses.

Have a race plan. Knowing the course, and where the terrain shifts can help you maximize your efforts. For example, 3M has long sections that are slightly downhill. By engaging your core and leaning forward slightly “from the ankles,” you can pick up some speed on these parts of the course.

Use the first part of the race as a warm-up. That’s right—you can run a bit slower for the first couple of miles. The first mile of the race is actually very important to the overall outcome. It sounds counter-intuitive, but easing into your goal pace is the way to go. It’s been said many times, but it bears repeating: in a distance race, there’s no such thing as “banking time.”

Now that you’re warmed up, fall into the race pace that you trained at. If your goal pace is 7:30 a mile, remember what your training runs at that pace felt like, and tune your body into that. A half-marathon is a fairly long way to go, so focus on one mile at a time. Successful runners learn not to think about how far the total distance is, but rather to take each mile as it comes along.

Most runners can benefit from checking their splits at each mile marker. Knowing that you are right on or near goal pace is a positive affirmation that can boost your confidence as the race progresses. Likewise, the mile splits can tell you whether you need to pick it up a bit or ease back slightly. Don’t be afraid to “race by feel,” either. If you are feeling especially good at faster then goal pace, then go for it!

And finally, take advantage of what racing has to offer that training runs don’t have. Use the other runners to motivate yourself. Maybe there’s someone just ahead of you that you know you can beat. Or maybe there’s a pack running right around your pace that you can fall in with. Soak in the cheering from the people on the sidelines, and allow their words to energize you.

Taken together, all of these components will help you nail your pace come race day. Good luck!

Upcoming Races: Saturday, January 20, the Taylor Garden Club Run for the Roses 5K at 9:00 a.m. at Murphy Park in Taylor. Sunday, January 21 at 7:30 a.m., the 3M Half Marathon at Stonegate Blvd. at the Gateway Shopping Center.

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