Many people believe you’re either born able to finish fast, or not–but that’s not actually the case. The ability to finish strong on tired legs can be learned and improved on. Coach and author Steve Magness says that while people assume they’re limited by genetics, “that stuff can be manipulated to a degree.”
Here are three workouts to add to your routine so that your finishing kick astounds everyone around you. While these are easily done on a track, you can take them to the road or wherever you prefer to train, and your measurements don’t have to be exact. If you’re a newer runner, feel free to modify the workout by doing less reps, and gradually adding more as you get stronger.
500 metre repeats with bounding
Bounding involves taking long, exaggerated strides, driving off the back leg and lifting the front knee as high as you can. These increase your force requirement and muscle-fibre recruitment. Adding the kick at the end of each repeat forces you to switch between speed and fatigue resistance.
Warm up with 10 to 15 minutes easy running
Try four to six 500m repeats, with the first 200m at 5K pace or faster, moving straight into 100m of bounding, followed by a 200m kick finish
Cool down with 10 minutes easy running
800 metre accelerations
For each rep, run the first 400m at 10K race pace, the next 300m at 5K pace and the last 100m full-out.
Warm up with 10 minutes easy running
Run four to six 800m repeats with three minutes rest in between each 800m
Cool down with five to 10 minutes easy running
Practicing relaxing to open up on that final stretch
I had a track coach in high school that had us repeat “relaxed runners are fast runners” every practice. He was right–runners tend to tense up during the end of a race, trying to force a fast finish, and end up actually slowing down. Magness suggests shaking it out. “One of the best things you can do is to just drop the arms, open up the hands and shake them out for a second.’
Aim for faster turnover and even, controlled breathing. Like anything else, running relaxed when you’re tired takes practice, and it’s normal for it to feel challenging at first.
Bonus: watch one of the greatest fast-finishers of all time, Sir Mo Farah, leave his competition in the dust for the bell lap of a 5000m race.