Happy Race Week to all my Chicago Marathon Running Buddies! It’s been almost 7 years since I ran the Chicago Marathon – and the last time I actually ran a marathon. I’ve only run 2 marathons ever and I definitely did not train for or race them well. Definitely no Boston Qualifying time for this girl – I crashed and burned on BOTH of my marathons, even though I was on pace for a BQ at Chicago and then completely died the last 8 miles.
Seven years later and I’ve learned A LOT about running, training, and nutrition. I think if I trained for a marathon now, there is no doubt that I could run a BQ. Don’t get any ideas though – I don’t plan on running a marathon ANYTIME soon. But, the reason I feel so confident in saying that is because I feel like I FINALLY have found a good race + fueling strategy that ANYONE can implement, and when done well, can help you get to the finish line feeling strong + CONFIDENT!
Here is my 3 step race strategy you can use for your upcoming fall races:
Run the first HALF of the race at a comfortably fast pace.
When I say “comfortably fast,” I mean at a pace where you can hold a conversation while running, but not so slow that you’ll completely set yourself up for failure. Ideally, this should be just a little slower than your goal pace, with your first mile being your slowest and gaining a bit of speed with each passing mile, so that when you are at the halfway point in the race, you are at your goal pace or faster.
The key is to START SLOW. If you start the race running at or faster than your goal race pace, I can almost guarantee you that your race will NOT end well. Find a pace that you can hold a conversation with someone and you feel like you can hold that pace for a long period of time.
Run the middle section of the race (miles 8-11 for a half; miles 13-22 for a full) at GOAL PACE.
THIS is the part of the race you’ve been training for! This is the part of the race that is not only the toughest physically, but also mentally. This is the part of the race that can make or break the outcome, so you have to run SMART during this part of the race.
This “middle” section of the race is all about running at your GOAL RACE PACE. For example, if you are attempting to run a 1:45 half marathon, you should be running at an 8:00/mile pace or faster during this section of the race. Ideally, you should be picking up the pace slightly with each mile. But, you should still be able to talk to someone, but it shouldn’t be as easy – as in, you need to stop and take a breath every 3 or 4 words.
The key is to stay focused during this part of the race. For me, I start picking out runners ahead of me and make it my goal to pass them by a certain point (usually the next mile). If I pass them before the goal, I move on to the next person. In a half or full (especially large races, like Chicago), there will be people you have been eyeing the entire race – this is the time for you to make it your GOAL to pass them! This is also the time to start using those mantras you’ve been practicing. I always resort to, “I am FEARLESS” or “I feel good. I feel strong.” Decide on it ahead of time so you know what you need to repeat in your head as you start passing people one by one!
Run the last few miles (miles 11-13.1 for a half; miles 22-26.2 for a full) ALL OUT!
I say “all out” with love, of course! This is what Prefontaine was talking about when he said, “I race to see who has the most guts.” This is when you have nothing left to lose. You should be at or faster than race pace and giving it everything you’ve got!
Continue saying your mantras and keep picking people out to pass as you go. You’ve worked HARD for this part of the race and this is like your victory lap to the finish line! Start thinking of those post-race meals, that beer waiting for you at the finish, and how GREAT it’s going to feel to take a few days (or weeks) off from training. This is the time to leave it ALL OUT on the course!
You’ve GOT THIS, running buddy! I can’t wait to hear how your race goes!
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