Patience, by Kevin Jermyn and Chris Graff of TrackCoach.com¹

The art of running a race is exactly that, an art. Strategy and tactics play a major role in the outcome of a race and often the smarter runner can beat the faster one if they have the right race plan and stick to it.

One of the most important qualities to have as a distance runner is patience. In a 5k or 10k race, the first person to the mile marker is not necessarily the one who wins. It is very easy to get excited at the beginning of a race and go out too quickly, causing your legs to fill prematurely with lactic acid. On the other hand going out too slow will leave you lost in the pack and sometimes unable to pass through the crowds of people. So where do we find the medium? My college coach used to use the term controlled aggression. You need to be in control of yourself, your emotions, your pace, at the start of the race, but that doesnít mean you are going to let people run by you either. How fast you should go out in a race can be predicted by your workouts to a certain extent, but often a certain degree of trial and error is necessary until you become a more experienced racer.

When I race 5k or 10k I break the race into thirds (one mile segments for a 5k and 2 mile segments for the 10k) and use these sections as comparative points from one race to the next. I can tell you for sure that if you are really hurting after the first third you probably went out too fast and are going to have a tough road ahead. If you are at two thirds and not at all tired you probably will not fulfill your potential for that day. I have found that after the first third it is good to feel that I have been running at a pace that feels brisk, but still relaxed. During the middle third I try to run in a steady rhythm. Ideally, the pace will not change too much either way, and I try to glide as much as possible despite the now noticeable fatigue. Pace changes will make you more tired and decrease your efficiency later down the line. At two thirds of the way you should be fairly tired, but not totally exhausted. It should be a good tired, and not an overbearing one. The final third usually takes care of itself, because you pretty much throw in whatever is left, and the smell of the finish is motivation enough to deal with the now extensive fatigue that your body is enduring.

The times of each of the three thirds should be fairly even. Obviously if the first one is much faster than the others you went out too fast and if the last one is much faster you went out too slow. Ideally, the segments should be getting slightly faster as you go. It is not a bad idea to start off a bit slower in the first mile so that you donít shock your body too much at the beginning of the event. The second segment should be run at the pace you hope to average for the entire race, and the final third is hopefully just a little faster than the others because you were able to squeeze out a little kick at the end.

Inevitably there will be people in your race who go out too fast or too slow, which means that the trick is to be patient enough in the early going to run your own race, and aggressive enough during the hard parts to keep it going. Being cool under fire is a learned response and if it is learned properly, it will surely lead to you running your best.

Kevin Jermyn and Chris Graff
TrackCoach.com

¹ TrackCoach.com provides several levels of personal coaching for anyone ranging from beginner to elite.