5 Ways To Place Higher In Races – Women's Running

5 Ways To Place Higher In A Race

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  October 17, 2016

5 Ways To Place Higher iStock

One of the great things about our Women’s Running 10K Series is seeing the reaction of the winners. Some of them are seasoned club runners who know their competition and are out to race hard, but for others it might be the first time they’ve reached a race podium – and they’re not quite sure how to feel about it.

On the one hand, reaching the prizes – or just moving into a top 10 position – is a brilliant feeling. Not only have you beaten your own expectations but, by a very objective measure, you have become officially a Fast Runner. Once you get over the urge to apologise to everyone you’ve beaten, you may find you like this feeling and you want to keep aiming high – you have raised your performance bar without even realising. Here’s how to stay on top and get used to being at the sharp end.

Put yourself first

There is one aspect of your race preparation that mustn’t change when you are aiming for a high-placed finish: you must still put most of your focus into your own performance. It can be easy to become distracted by what other runners are doing and what they’re finding successful in training. During a race, it’s even harder to run for yourself, as your success in placing high could depend to an extent on being aware of the other women running around you and responding to their tactics. But it’s important that you still know how you tick: what is the fastest pace you can hold to the finish, what does that feel like, what will it take to get you there? This will often mean having the confidence to do things differently to runners around you, and sometimes accepting that they are simpler, but in the long term you’ll run better this way.

Get a coach!

This brings us on to the next secret to performing well in races: taking on a coach, if you haven’t already done so. You are not looking for someone to completely tear up your training schedule and give you a totally new approach – after all, you have already shown that you can run faster. You are looking for someone who understands how you think, how you like to train, and the other pressures on your life. Most importantly, you’re looking for a coach who can offer you the emotional and psychological support you’ll need to stay at the front end of the race. A good coach will keep you calm when you’re panicked by other people’s fitness levels, or when you want to throw your race plan out of the window and pelt off from the gun. A good coach will help you to review each race and each session so you learn and move forwards. If you’re not already part of a club, joining one and getting coaching support (as well as other fast runners to train with) is a brilliant place to start.

Get specific

Training works better when it is specifically tailored to an event, so choose what you want to be really good at. You might decide you want to be great at flat 5K races or you want to excel at lumpy off-road courses. Just choose your area of focus and put everything into that.

This also applies to your race planning. Choose a few A-races to aim for and plan everything else around those. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a variety of races for fun, but work with your coach to decide how you’ll approach each event so that you’re not constantly asking too much of your body. Save your hard efforts for those key events and treat the others as training.

Look around you

“Great camaraderie.” Time and time again you’ll hear this cited as one of the brilliant things about the running community – and, at the risk of being a bit sexist, we think women really do well in this area. You don’t need to forgo that feeling of understanding and friendship (nor should you) to win. But once you are competing for a race place rather than just against yourself, you will need to think slightly differently. You’ll need to become aware of the women who have entered your chosen race, how they usually run, and their previous finish times. You’ll need to be prepared to run past them unapologetically as you go through the field. When you’re entering big events or those further away from home, this is difficult, but in local races or those you compete in regularly, you’ll get to know a few names and faces who will always be in the top 20. Make use of this knowledge to determine your own goals – and don’t forget to be as friendly and supportive as ever once you’re over that finish line!

Choose your partners carefully

It is lovely to trot around with friends but, if you decide to run in the fast lane, you will need to find running partners who challenge you. That doesn’t mean ditching lifelong running buddies, but just save them for your recovery days and long steady efforts, making sure you do intense sessions with runners who are slightly faster than you are. It might be intimidating at first, but once you find the right group of people to train with, you’ll find your speed comes on and you’re able to keep up in no time.

Women's Running Magazine

NMA’s 2020 Lifestyle Magazine of the Year, Women’s Running provides expert advice on gear and training, motivation from your favourite runners and the latest running news.

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