Tips for getting your pacing right

Get from start to finish in the shortest time possible

There are lots of factors that come into play when determining your race pace strategy, but it’s essentially about getting from the start to the finish in the shortest time possible with little energy left at the end. Sounds simple on paper, but in reality it’s often far from straightforward. Check out these top tips to help you pace your race to perfection.

Adjust accordingly

It’s important to remember that your race pace shouldn’t be set in stone and may need to be flexible at times. Your pace should be based on your current level of fitness, the nature of the course and the weather conditions.

The profile or topography of the course could impact on your pacing strategy so it pays to do your homework and to do some research beforehand. If there are a number of hills, particularly in the latter half of the race then you will need to factor them into your pacing strategy and save some energy for them. Conversely, if the course has a downhill start for example, then be mindful not to be too exuberant at the start or you may pay for it later!

If the weather is not conducive to running as fast as you may like then you should adjust your pace accordingly and run to effort rather than the numbers on your GPS or watch. Running into a strong headwind significantly increases energy costs for example so if you fail to adjust your pace you may find that you run out of energy during the latter stages of the race.

The most important thing to remember when determining a goal time is that it needs to correspond with your ability and your current fitness level. This is where you need to be honest with yourself and look at things objectively. Use your performances in training as a guideline to help set your pace.

Spread your effort

The smartest runners are those who spread their effort over the duration of the race by running even or negative splits (where the second half of the race is run faster than the first). Approaching a race in this way means that you use energy most economically and will therefore increase your likelihood of finishing in a personal best time. Try not to think that getting ahead of your desired splits early on is ’money in the bank’, it generally isn’t!  If you run too hard too soon, the rate at which you burn glycogen will soar, resulting in you accumulating lactate faster than you can clear it and you’ll be forced to slow down.

Listen to your body

Our bodies are incredibly effective at providing us with internal or biofeedback whenever we exercise. Information on our breathing rate, heart rate and fatigue levels within the muscle is constantly being fed back to our brain so that we can adjust our effort accordingly. Try to tune in to these subtle signs and listen to what your body is telling you. If your breathing is very laboured early on in a race for example, you’re probably running too fast and will be forced to slow down in the latter stages.

Written by Louise Damen

Louise is a two-time England Cross Country Champion and a former European XC Trials winner. She has also represented GB at various international events and her marathon PB is 2:30:00.

Editorial Credit: David Acosta Allely /

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