3 Tips for a Smooth Start to Your Race

After dozens of training runs and miles logged, you're ready for race day. You imagine cruising across the finish line with plenty of gas left in the tank, and a smile on your face.

Unfortunately, once the gun goes off, your plan for an ideal race can derail quickly especially if you choose an inappropriate race pace.

Masters runner and running coach Art Ives knows all too well the issues runners can encounter at the start of a race. We recently spoke with him to get his thoughts on how runners can avoid crucial mistakes in the first few minutes of a race to avoid disappointment at the finish line.

More: How to Find a Race Pace That Works

Tip No.1: Know Yourself

It's important  to recognize your tendencies as a runner, and do your best to address them pre-race. Do you tend to go out too fast? Too slow? Keep this in mind at the start of the race.

Once the gun goes off, pay attention to how you feel: energetic, excited, tired? Ives recommends runners be sensitive to the amount of effort they are putting forth. "It's important for runners to feel how fresh they are," says Ives. This will enable runners to run according to how they feel, so they can gauge pacing appropriately and ensure that an equal effort is put forth for the entire race.

Tip No.2: Start Slow

Ives suggests runners start their race about four percent slower than their average race pace. "It'll feel pretty pedestrian to most people," he says, "but I usually recommend for runners to take about 1/6 of the distance of the race to build up to a cruising pace." It's important not to put forth too much effort too soon.

But each runner is different when it comes to starting a race, and one formula won't work for everybody. "Some people are going to be stronger and survive faster starts, and some people need the faster starts to build momentum," says Ives.

But by thinking "slow" as you run, you can often drive yourself to a faster performance, and still have plenty of energy at the end of the race.

More: 10 Long-Distance Running Blunders

Tip No.3: Relax Like the Pros Do

It's normal to feel a few butterflies on the morning of the race. This anxiety can intensify at the starting line.By allowing nervousness to take over, runners can forget to focus on early race pacing and go out too hard."If you try to do too much, too soon, you can overstretch the muscles," Ives warns.  

Try to relax as you wait for the gun to go off.It can be helpful to take deep breaths, listen to music, and remember that all those training runs will have you prepared.It's what professional runners do.

"If you look at the Olympics, you'll see a floating quality to [the athletes'] running," says Ives. "They ease into the warmth of their muscles. Emulate that and you'll have much more success on race day."

More: 4 Tweaks to Run Like the Elites

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