Most of you presumably train for races with some specific goal in mind; a goal other than that of “just finishing.” Whether it’s a goal of finishing under a certain time, achieving a new Personal Best, or winning an age-group or gender award, I’m willing to bet that how you go about achieving that goal is built into your training plan. But, in a recent blog post by Coach Greg McMillan, he mentions that the “perfect race” is often related to perfect execution, and so maybe the key to achieving your goal also depends on having an equally strategic race plan.
According to McMillan, a good race plan is one that involves risk, as well as an ability to manage that risk. That reminds me by the way, of a podcast interview in which Bob Larsen (Meb Keflezighi‘s coach), said that Meb was initially looked at not because he was exceptionally strong and fast (many of his college peers were apparently faster), but because he was bold enough to take risks in races.
If you’ve never been much of a risk-taker on race-day, here are five steps that McMillan recommends:
1. Expect the voice – know that you’ll eventually reach a point in your race where you’ll encounter “the voice.” You’re already familiar with it; it always shows up in mocking fashion, often catching you off guard and throwing you off pace. The best way to challenge it is to expect it and be ready for it.
2. When in doubt, go for it – if you have any inclination at all to pick up the pace at some crucial point in the race, don’t allow yourself any negotiating time. Those split-second decisions are often the ones that later cause regret because you chose the conservative instead of aggressive option.
3. Know yourself – you know exactly what mistakes you’ve made in the past, so make it your mission to not make those same mistakes again.
4. Kick – there’s no reason to hold back when the finish line is in sight; give it everything you’ve got and sprint! As obvious as this step may sound, not everyone does it. I really believe this is a strategy worth practicing in training, especially as I have personally experienced – twice now – a second place finish due to the runner behind me passing me with a strong finishing sprint.
5. Risk everything – what’s the worst thing that can happen? You might completely bonk and end up with one of your worst race times ever, but as McMillan so rightly states, “Races are a chance to explore your limits,” so why shouldn’t you?
Check out the full article here if you want to read more, or if you’re interested in Greg McMillan’s coaching services.