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3 tips for nailing the perfect pace on race day

We've all gone out too fast–here's how to avoid that common mistake

Baltimore Distance Under Armour Photo by: Jan Figueroa, @janfigueroa07, Under Armour

It doesn’t matter how experienced or inexperienced a runner you are–everyone has made the mistake of going out too fast in a race. It’s a painful affair, both physically and mentally, when you see others blowing by you because you’ve gone out too swiftly. The thing is, you will never win the race in the first kilometre, but you might well lose it. 

Lara Rogers, the head coach of the Under Armour professional team UA Mission Run Baltimore Distance group in Baltimore, coaches some of the top up-and-coming middle-distance athletes training for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Rogers shares three tips on how to find that sweet spot and maintain a consistent rhythm throughout the race.

Lara Rogers UA Mission Run
Coach Lara Rogers, working with one of her athletes at UA Mission Baltimore Distance. Photo: Jan Figueroa, @janfigueroa07, Under Armour

Be realistic

Firstly, know your target pace. Set realistic and achievable pace goals based on your training and previous races. This requires understanding your fitness level and the demands of the race distance. If you are running your first 5K or 10K, it’s better to start at a modest pace and speed up as the race progresses. 

If you have some recent races under your belt, you can always use them as a reference. A recent 5K is a great race predictor for what you can run for 10K, as is the 10K for the half-marathon. For example, if you have a personal best of 25 minutes for 5K, doubling your time and adding two to four minutes should give you a realistic range to train toward.

Get a feel for it in training

In the weeks leading up to race day, spend a few sessions trying to nail that goal pace. Practising this can help your body get familiar with different paces and develop a sense of pacing. By practising at race pace, you are training your body to maintain that specific speed and get comfortable with that effort.

Incorporating tempo runs, intervals and race simulations are all great sessions to build your comfort level. My favourite workout to find your perfect pace is 10 reps of 400m, or five reps of 800m, at your potential goal pace, with equal recovery. If you can conquer this, it’ll help you feel confident with your pacing as you gear up for race day.

UA Mission Run Baltimore
Photo: Jan Figueroa, @janfigueroa07, Under Armour

Be patient

It is easy to get carried away at the start with the excitement of race day, but trust your training and remember that finishing strong is the most important part. Remember to be patient, and using a pace group of runners shooting for a similar goal time can help you nail the perfect pace from the start.

While it’s important to stick to your target pace, it’s also important to be flexible and make adjustments if necessary. Factors like weather conditions, terrain and how you feel on race day can all impact your performance. Trust your training, stay focused and strive for a steady rhythm. By following these three tips, you’ll increase your chances of achieving your race day goals.

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