Welcome back from the long weekend, friends!

From the looks of Twitter, a lot of you commenced Fall marathon training this weekend. Congratulations and welcome back to long running!

Back to sweating so much that people ask you if it's raining when they see you.

Back to sweating so much that people ask you if it’s raining and strangers suggesting sunscreen because your face is as red as a tomato. For the record, I am Irish and this is normal.

There’s a lot of thought that goes into training for a race. No matter what the distance is, putting in the miles and hours is what gets you to the start line, no question about it. But what gets you to the finish line is more nuanced.

The mental game of completing a race can be daunting for a lot of runners, seasoned and novice. What’s important is to lay out your game plan in advance and know what to focus on during your race.

True story: when I wear my shades, I feel more focused.

True story: when I wear my shades, I feel more focused.

One of the things you should stay focused on is running your tangents.

(Image courtesy of CartoonStock.com)

(Image courtesy of CartoonStock.com)

Most races are measured by the shortest distance possible between the start and finish line. This is all well and good for the front runners who have an open road and few competitors to either side of them. The rest of us, however, are relegated to negotiating elbow room for the entirety of our race.

Many, many runners find that their Garmin tells them they ran well over the race distance and thus, their time suffers significantly. Some courses are just twisty-turny or have a wide breadth and leave a lot of room for runners to wind their way to the finish line.

Others are so crowded that you end up bobbing and weaving so much throughout that you run almost a full half mile extra.

Trying to run the tangents at the Marine Corps Marathon...and looking lost.

Trying to run the tangents at the Marine Corps Marathon…and looking lost.

So how does one avoid running more than the race distance? Focus and pre-planning.

  1. Look for the curves in the road and run as straight a line between them as possible.
  2. Look up and plan your route.
  3. Carry a water bottle with you so you can avoid weaving through water stations.
  4. Don’t space out when you’re running.
  5. Don’t hug either side of the road except when making turns. The middle of the road is often the shortest path.
Twisty and turny!

Twisty and turny!

The course in Chicago was full of little turns and loops. When I stuck to my guns and ran straight ahead, looking out for the shortest point between the turns, I was incredibly successful. I only ran 13.12 miles = .02 miles more than the race distance. Not bad.

I know you want to high-five every kid along the way and that hugging the side of the road seems like a good strategy. But doing that will add distance and time to your run. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be out there any longer than I have to, especially if my time is going to suffer as a result.

What do you think about when you run? Have you mastered the art of running the tangents? I have nightmares of my past Trigonometry classes when I say the word “tangents” too much…*shudder*

Now go out and run!