Is it better to hold a certain pace for an entire race, or start fast from the gun? Clients commonly ask me this question and to them I usually respond with the classic yet incredibly fitting “car analogy”.
To maximize your vehicle’s fuel economy, especially on long road trips, cruise control is your best bet! If you have a lead foot or are constantly accelerating and decelerating, kiss your holiday money good bye! The same concept applies to racing. If you pace yourself, so your effort is the same from beginning to end, you’ll be efficiently using your energy. Pacing could be considered an art as it requires feeling the pace, holding back when times are easy and pushing it when times get tough. Unfortunately we are not equipped with a dashboard that indicates low fluid levels, battery troubles, or an over or under performing engine.
The best indicator of our efforts, and our body’s reaction to stress, is our heart rate. A heart rate monitor is an excellent investment and can help you regulate and gauge your efforts in training and on race day!
To best answer the client’s aforementioned question I usually ask them what their race day goal is. If they want to run a personal best, then I get them to watch their heart rate and stay in their specified zone—keeping their body on cruise control. If they want to win or mix it up, I suggest they run by feel. I remind them that racing to win, especially in a competitive field, may require frequent bursts of speed to stay engaged with the leaders.
Cruise control, lead foot from the get-go, or covering moves with surges en route to the finish line, are all options. The most important thing is sticking to your race plan. Plan ahead and race with intelligence!
Suggested Reading: The 5 Principles of Running Smart
About the Author: Cliff Worden-Rogers is a sport science nerd. He is a hub of information for physiology, biomechanics, nutrition, and many other useless tidbits. Cliff’s next goal is to run at the World Mountain Championships. Cliff believes in training with a purpose and offers Lactate Testing through his company Transition Point Training.