The Elite Coach’s Guide to Running your Best Race Ever

You’ve set your goals. You’ve put in your miles. You’ve run so many laps your shoes are stained track-red.

You’re ready!

But, when race day rolls around, you always seem to come up short.

You wonder, “Did I go out too fast? Should I have run more intervals in training? Did I not want it enough?”

What could you have done differently to reach your race goals?

Train with a good coach (#2)

101 winning racing strategies coverThose are the same questions I was asking myself, until I received a copy of Dr. Jason Karp’s new book, 101 Winning Racing Strategies for Runners.

In spite of its title, this isn’t a book exclusively for runners who could place first overall. Dr. Karp is clear that:

Running a winning race means an athlete runs his best race, a race that he can be proud of, a race that he can walk away from feeling tat he did the absolute best he could do on that day.

Isn’t that really what we’re all looking for? Just like the dolls in Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, you “try to be [your] best”, right?

But, if you’ve reached the peak of what you can accomplish alone, it’s time to look for someone to guide you the rest of the way. As a USA Track and Field certified trainer and elite coach at the US Olympic Training Center, Dr. Karp is eminently qualified to help you get there.

How to use these tips to reach your potential

As a good runner, you know that running your winning race isn’t just about what happens on race day. Running a winning race is a culmination of weeks and months of training, your pre-race preparation, and your in-race performance.

Dr. Karp has you covered on all fronts.

During Training

Just like building a house, a great race starts with a solid foundation. Ignore the foundation and the house falls apart.

Any training plan worth using will understand this, and start you by [improving] your aerobic base (#6). You’re going to be pushing your body to its limits, and this should be the longest phase of any running program to reflect that.

Even during this phase, you should spend time running at faster speeds (#8). If you want to run fast you need to, well, run fast. Try adding tempo runs and LINK-LINK-LINK fartlek training to your routine to become very familiar with what different paces feel like (#16).

Of course, all that training breaks your muscles down. Muscles build and adapt during rest. So, you need to maximize recovery (#11) to capitalize on your training.

Dr. Karp has plenty of other tips for training. But, in my opinion, the most important thing he offers is that, to run a winning race, you need to train consistently (#26). As Dr. Karp puts it:

The number one secret of training is that there are no secrets. It takes a lot of consistent work, over a long period of time, to meet running potential.

A good reminder to get out there and run. Not that most of us need an excuse, right?

Race Day

Once you have the foundation in place, it’s time to build the house. But you need to know what kind of house you’re building. You can’t run a winning race unless you know what a winning race looks like.

Before you rush off on race day, have specific, meaningful goals in mind for the race (#36).

Do you want to set a personal record? Run even or negative splits (#49)? Keep enough gas in the tank for a finishing kick?

Once you develop a personal definition for winning (#94), you can save your energy for the parts of the race that mean the most to you.

Then, with your goals clearly in view, run the first two-thirds of the race with the head, and the last third with the heart (#54).

Be smart when you start out. Don’t do anything that compromises your race goals. Then when you start to feel burned out – and we all do when we can feel the finish line approaching – let your goals pull you onward.

Dig deep and finish strong.

A balanced approach

There are far more great strategies in this book than I’ve covered here. If you want to improve your racing, you can’t go wrong by picking up a copy.

However, in the interest of balance, I do have to call Dr. Karp out on one thing.

If you’ve been reading Midpack Runner for awhile, you know that I think the strength of our community is in how we support one another.

There are a few tips directed, I think, at serious competitors that rubbed me the wrong way. For instance, [playing] head games with opponents (#31).

I feel that, as runners, we should focus on winning by helping push one another forward. That tip felt, to me, like pulling each other backward.

However, the rest of the tips are well worthwhile, so I’m willing to let that one go.

The only other thing I’d offer is that you will need a science background (or the oracle of Google) to fully use some of these tips. If you’re familiar with lactate thresholds and VO2Max, you’ll be fine. And you can still use the tips even if not. But you’ll get the most out of a few of them if you understand the science.

It’s time to break the failure/self-doubt cycle.

We all want to be our best. The only question left is do you want it bad enough?

If you’re ready to run your winning-est race ever, go grab a copy of Dr. Karp’s 101 Winning Racing Strategies for Runners. Then share this post with anyone you know who wants to be a better runner. I promise they’ll thank you for it.

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And now, on with the show.

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