How Course-Specific Training Can Improve Race Day Performance

So, what's the best way to mimic a hilly course if a runner resides in a flat environment—or a flat course for those residents in mountain goat territory? The answer lies in technology and a willingness to do a little driving. 

Athletes throughout the world prepping for races like Boston have commonly used the treadmill as a contained and controllable way of mimicking the course. Many quality treadmill companies produce models with both uphill and downhill functions, enabling perfect course replication should your local topography not be sufficient. And while treadmills are viewed by many as "boring" and even unnatural, they allow long distance runners to preview any type of course before actually seeing it. 

What would that look like in practice? Runners training for Boston may open 4 to 6 of their training runs with 45 to 60 minutes of 2 to 3 percent grade downhill running before heading outside.

Additionally, for more effective course specific preparation, be open to traveling to "race similar" topography for important longer runs and/or interval sessions. A 60 to 80-minute drive four or five times in the final weeks before race day is a small sacrifice to teach firing patterns which will be seen on the big day. Lastly, practicing with a lower key race of a similar topography in the final 4 to 6 weeks before your big day will activate similar muscle firing patterns.

Since the days of the first running boom, distance runners have been utilizing all sorts of unique and innovative ways of preparing for the challenges of every type of course. And while pounding your quads with your fists on longer runs may be a bit overzealous, some small "course specific" tweaks in your weekly training can and will make you more effective on race day. 

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