Photo by Heather Lee-Callaghan.

Have you ever stood on the starting line and had a competitor ask you about your race plan, only to realize that you had not given it a thought? Developing a race strategy not only provides peace of mind and confidence on race day, but can help you achieve your goals when executed properly. Below are tips for helping you develop the best plan for your needs.

Training Mentality

Would you ever go into a training run “hoping,” or “wishing,” to hit a certain pace? If you are like most runners, you approach training knowing what times you are capable of running, without giving them a second thought. You should approach race day in the same manner. Instead of saying, “I hope I can run 7:00 pace for the first 10 miles,” say, “I will run 7:00 pace for the first 10 miles.” The first step of developing a good race strategy is believing in your abilities.

Know the Course

When developing a race plan, it is important to understand the course. If the race is a marathon and there are hills in the final 6 miles, you will want to conserve energy during the middle portion of the race. If the first mile of a 5k is downhill, you will want to make sure not to run too fast when the gun goes off. If the course is flat, aiming for even or negative splits is recommended. You should also know as much about the course as possible so that you don’t have any surprises on race day.

Power of Negative Splits

When aiming for a goal time, many runners mistakenly believe that “banking” time by running the first half much faster than goal pace will ultimately help them reach their goals. Instead, running even or negative splits (meaning the second half is run at the same pace or faster than the first half) is recommended. Develop a plan where you approach the first half of the race conservatively and slightly slower than goal pace. Not confident in this approach? Try this method during a training or long run to test how it feels.

Fueling

If your race lasts more than 75 minutes, fueling should be part of your race plan. Before the gun goes off, be sure to have a detailed plan for when and where you take in carbohydrates and how much you need to drink at each aid station.