How can I pace myself on race day so that I finish strong?
There are few better experiences than feeling strong throughout a race and meeting a goal time. In one survey, 87% of respondents reported having wrecked their race goals by going out too fast at least once. You can avoid this mistake and give yourself the best chance of reaching your goal with a few simple strategies:
Practice your pace in training. Whatever distance you are training for, you should have covered enough miles at your goal pace in training so you can settle into that rhythm automatically on race day. Progression runs can also be helpful in which you run progressively faster over the course of your training run. You’ll develop the feel for holding a challenging pace on tired legs which will serve you well in the last miles of your race.
Maintain your goal pace. Don’t try to run at a pace you’ve never been able to sustain in training. Set your watch as you cross the start line and pay attention to your split times at the mile markers; Unless you are in the final mile of the race, slow down if you’re running a pace that is too good to be true.
Monitor your breathing. Focus on your breathing to avoid getting pulled into an unsustainable pace. Run the first mile at a pace at which you could speak in short sentences. If you’re feeling great, gradually increase your pace; this way you’ll save your strongest effort (and hardest breathing) for the last part of the race.
Take care of the details. Make sure that you’re well-rested, well-fueled, and dressed appropriately for the weather conditions. Give yourself your best chance of performing well and staying safe and healthy on race day.
By developing a good sense of pace in training and monitoring your effort, you can avoid the common pitfall of a too-fast start. The mental toughness you’ve developed in training will help you focus on your own race and give you the confidence for a strong finish. Trust your training and run your own race!
Polly de Mille is the Director of performance services at the Tisch Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery. In addition to being a registered nurse, she holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a registered clinical exercise physiologist, exercise specialist and exercise test technologist. She is also a certified USAT Level 1 triathlon coach.