Success with the right tactics

Valentin Belz 26. July 2017

After having spent many months preparing for your goal, you are ready to give it your all and then this: just a few kilometres into the race you realise your strength is dwindling because you started too quickly. 

This happens to so many people when competing in competitions. Once the race kicks off, they too have trouble in striking the right intensity despite the hormone surge and need to make sure they don’t get pulled along by the masses. However, it won’t be long before you pay the price for this quick start: before you know it, you find can no longer maintain your speed and end up slipping back through the participants. You somehow make it to the finish but are hugely disappointed because you didn’t get the maximum out of your potential.
Does this sound familiar to you? We have summarised the most important tips to make sure this does not happen to you again in future:

  • At the start, stand with the athletes who have the same finishing time as you and not with those who have your desired time.
  • Calculate a possible finishing time (e.g. 1h15) based on your training or competition results and constantly ask yourself during the first few minutes of the race whether you can keep up this speed/pace for the duration.
  • Figure out your average speed/pace based on the finishing time and distance (e.g. 1h15 and 16 km = 4:41 min/km). Then check this during the first metres or kilometres using a stopwatch or GPS clock. The advantages of a fast start are usually paid for twice over at the end of the race.
  • Look well at the profile of the route. Where are the ascents, when are there flatter sections and where are the other key points?
  • Mentally divide the route into three: run the first third very relaxed. In the second third, pay attention to your running economy. Speed up in the last third. Only here can you permit yourself to suffer somewhat. You will thus achieve the best result because you can still pick up the pace at the end.
  • Make sure that the exertion always feels “pleasantly strenuous". As soon as it becomes "uncomfortably strenuous" slow down your pace, because this is an indication that your anaerobic energy supply can only be maintained for a few minutes. It should only become "uncomfortably strenuous” in the last few kilometres of the race when the finish is in easy reach!
  • Adapt your speed to the distance: the longer the competition, the more cautious you should be at the start. And vice versa. In other words, you should start a half marathon slower than a 5-km city run.