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Page 1 2 If time targets are up, go to a realistic target based on slightly faster than the pace of your sustained runs, or at your current personal record. No time targets on display? Start near the back. Avoid starting off too fast. The adrenaline flowing makes this hard at times, but the rewards are high if you can achieve it. Your legs soon get tired and also fill up with the wastes of anaerobic running, which results in a labored running action. It is much better to run at an even pace, though the first and last mile are likely to be faster than the middle section.

Negative splits are even better, which means running the second half of the race faster than the first half. This requires restraint for the first mile, something you were practicing in your tempo runs. Don't take too much notice of your mile or kilometer times, or splits. Even if the entire course is accurate, many of the intermediate mile signs are wrong. Markers have been put out the morning of the race, based on a car's odometer, or attached to the lamppost nearest the actual point, or obliterated.

Used as a guide, mile markers are useful; within a hundred meters, most are correct. In a 10K race, the two or three mile, or 5K point may be the most benefit to you. If you can think straight, average your mile times to give yourself a more accurate picture. Arithmetically challenged? Write your mile split times on a piece of tape or bandaid and place it on your wrist.

Running at even effort is vital. Your easy week will make your legs feel fresh. The Wednesday speed session was to practice pace judgment with fresh legs. On race day, don't run faster than you planned for just because you feel nifty and fresh in the first half a mile. Steady is the key. If you can keep your heartrate within 10 beats per minute of your average for the race, you'll race better. A surge at each mile point may make you feel good while you're doing it, but it will cost you before the race is over. The faster you start, the more likely you are to hurt early in the race. In fact, don't look for any pain in the first few races. Enjoy the day and achieve times which you'll beat later...while perhaps hurting a bit as you reach your full race potential.

Warmdown after the race. Race recovery starts with 10 minutes of walking or easy running to cooldown from the race, plus liquid and a snack of mostly carbo and a bit of protein to keep your muscles happy (to help them recover).

You'll have to distinguish between physical and mental fatigue in your early races. Picture yourself crossing the finish line with good running form and a smile.

Practice will help you cope with any self-inflicted stresses. Run the first few races with minimal time or place targets and you will not have an Olympians jitters. In a couple of years you can get really nervous at your Olympics when you try for your first sub 30 or sub 20 minute 5K. On those days, just like in your early races, fatigue is likely to be from:

  • Dehydration: Start your 5K one percent dehydrated and you add 3 percent to your time: your potential 24:59 5K becomes a 25:44.
  • Lack of carbohydrate: Atkins, South Beach and Low Carb eaters beware.
  • Starting the race too fast: A steady, sustainable running pace is your goal.

Post Race Syndrome

Some people experience a letdown shortly after a race. Despite training for several months for your first 5K race, you will not experience this letdown, because you'll be out running an easy 4 to 5 miles the nest day or perhaps 48 hours after the race, and continue to run 4 to 5 days per week thereafter. You also have another race planned for next month, so enjoy the high from this race while recovering. Then ease in some gentle speed running toward the end of the first week and be back to full training after 10 days. Train moderately hard for another three weeks and rest up for the next race.

Additional racing tips

  • Run at your pace. Don't get dragged along to a fast start by a friend or you'll suffer later.
  • Run almost even pace. You'll still be working harder in the last mile, but at least the first mile will seem easy. In your first few races start a little slower than you could manage for the entire race and speed up for the last mile to make it a more positive experience.
  • Then you can race for personal records; next year you can run personal records on a particular course. Most of us run slower on hilly courses which have many turns. The essentially flat 4 turn race may be a dream, but would lead to faster times. Don't compare its time to a hilly course.
  • Race at One mile to 10K, but train at those paces in the weeks before the race.
  • Develop a mantra for the moment in a race that you hurt. Provided your pace is appropriate, a mantra will see you through a difficult patch: Self-talk can promote excellent running techniques or make you run too fast too early. Include these themes.
    • I did long repeats in training at 10 seconds per mile faster, so... This is easy; This is easy;
    • I did longer runs in training so... this race is short;
    • I'm in shape and I rested up;
    • My legs are strong;
    • I want to race;
    • My running is smooth (because I practiced economical running in training).
    • My lungs are huge;
    • My heart is strong... and so is my mind;
    • I'm tall and sexy;
    • I'm short and virile;
    • I did the first mile at ideal pace, so:
      • I'll keep going strongly;
      • Continue with good running form;
      • Avoid wasted energy;
      • No weaving;
      • No sudden pace changes;
      • In the first mile of the race your mantra maybe "I have more to give" or "I can run faster." However, your response should be along the lines of "but I will save some of my energy for later by running even pace."

Spectators are likely to shout "looking good" to you. Practice economical form to look as good as your body will let you.

Mental training is important for fast racing because it helps you through the tough spots. Run at the correct pace for you on race day, and break the race into sections while controlling the things that you can control. Some days, a racer will run across your path and mess up your rhythm. Let the anger go. Regain your form and cruise along effortlessly while waiting for him to fade. Race every 4 to 6 weeks at a variety of distances up to 10K. Include local cross-country, road, and track races. After a few months, move onto slightly higher mileage or more quality as shown in Running Dialogue. Page 1 2

Adapted from chapter nine (The early races) of 5K Fitness Run: Walk, Jog & Train for Fun, Health & to Race the 5K by David Holt, which takes joggers and runners to the 5K and to the 10K if they wish. 5K Fitness Run includes injury prevention advice, stretching, nutrition, over pages of cross training and schedules at 12 to 30 miles per week with speed tables for all runners..