I’m not a running coach, or an expert on running, but I have competed in track & field and cross-country running from elementary school throughout University. I’ve also been running regularly and competitively again for almost 2 years. Along the way, I have learned a few things about running. Today, I’m letting you in on a tips and strategies I’ve learned to run a faster race!
Run The Tangent
I’m not sure if you’ve heard of this racing theory “Running The Tangent” before. What’s a tangent? According to the Math is fun website, a tangent is “A line that just touches a curve at one point, without cutting across it.” So, when you are running, imagine drawing a line from the tangent of one curve to the tangent of the next curve, and you’ll be running in a straight line. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line right? So running the tangents only makes sense. If you always run at the center of the course, you’ll be running a longer distance than if you run the tangent of the curves (see diagram above). If your GPS watch is slightly off from a friend’s GPS watch, it might because of this fact. Maybe one of you is running in the center, while the other is running the tangent. Running the tangent might be more effective for longer races, but still, I try this approach when I can.
Swing Your Arms
I remember in high school track and cross-country running, our coach would often tell us to “swing those arms“. When you are getting tired, or climbing hills, it helps to swing your arms. The rest of your body will follow! I find this strategy helps to take away the focus from your burning calves and thighs and bring the focus up to your arms.
Train Train Train
There might some magic beans that would help you run faster but I’m sure they wouldn’t be legal. However, there is no substitute for training hard. This one should be obvious. If you want to run faster, you have to build those muscles. When I started running 5 km about 2 years ago, it would take me 35 minutes to finish a 5 km. My goal was to run it in 25:00. In my most recent 5 Km race, I finally reached a new P.R of 25:26. I’m now setting my race goal to 24 min for a 5 km. I love the training part. I sign up for races 6 to 8 weeks ahead and then I train hard to reach my goal. Speed work, interval training and hills training are imperative to running faster! Get out there and run, run and run!
Too much wine the night before or a heavy/fatty meal before a race is not a great idea if you are looking to set a personal record on race day. It’s important to fuel and hydrate properly. I’m not a nutritionist, I can only tell you what works best for me. I like a pasta dinner the night before a big race and lots of water. On the morning of the race, I wake up very early and have breakfast right away so that it has time to digest. My race day breakfast consists of oatmeal, toast and coffee. I try not to drink lots of water on race day since water makes me cramp up. I will hydrate myself with a sport drink instead.
Play mind games
Running longer distances can be a a challenge on your mind as much as it is on your body. Sometimes playing mind games can help divert the focus from any pain or frustration you might be feeling. If the distance seems very long, I’ll mentally break up the race in sections and only focus on that certain section. If I find my thighs or lungs are burning, I try to focus my thought on another part of my body, like the tip of my nose. If I have my iTunes playing on my iPhone, I’ll focus on the song. A good upbeat play list will definitely help divert the focus from the pain on to the music. I also do a lot of visualization during running. One of my goals is to complete a Triathlon, so sometimes, I just visualize how I would feel at the finish line with my twin sister at my side!
That concludes my five tips. I hope these strategies will help you run a faster race! Do you play mental games when you are running? What do you usually think about when running?