Halfway There

When I ran cross country as a freshman in high school, I was completely clueless about racing. In junior high, I’d just go out and run and I was always on of the Top 10 girls at the meet. Always.

That's about the sum of it.

That’s about the sum of it.

So why would I need strategy?

Oh. Because high school cross country was serious business. Not only was it all about “CONFERENCE, REGIONALS, SECTIONALS, STATE!” but scholarships that might lead to pro bids or even the Olympics, were on the line for some athletes.

Clearly, I was more concerned with my bangs (and other sports) than with my racing strategy.

Clearly, I was more concerned with my bangs (and other sports) than with my racing strategy.

Not for me. Never for me. But I did happen to run on the same team as some pretty fast girls who still kick butt.

Anyway, my coach that year taught me how to really run a race. He always stood at the halfway mark (1.5 miles–my, how times have changed!) and shout at us to SURGE! PUSH! KICK IT IN! for about 100 meters.

Why? What the heck, Coach Mustache, I’m only halfway there! Ahhhh, there was a method to his madness.

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Halfway there is not THERE. You are not near the finish. You are not even close. Halfway there is mental.

No matter the distance, halfway into a race is when the real race starts. It’s the point in the race that you either start to make a move or it all falls apart. You either choose to refocus or get bogged down in having so. much. farther. to go.

You either surge or you bonk.

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Things to do halfway into a race:

  • Start focusing more on your form.
  • Surge for a little bit and then find your pace again.
  • Make a mental note of what the rest of your miles should look like and commit to getting there.
  • Zone out the noise and hone in on your race.
  • Work harder.

The second half of anything is always harder.

The second half of a marathon beats the crap out of you. The second half of grad school is irritating and tedious. Halfway through training means you haven’t even hit your longest runs of the cycle. The second half of pregnancy is heavier and even more (really?) exhausting…something to look forward to. The second half of a 5K makes you want to vomit.

Closing in on the Vomit Threshold in my last 5K. Woof.

Closing in on the Vomit Threshold in my last 5K. Woof.

But here’s the thing, once you push past that halfway point, every step you take gets you closer to the finish line. Cliché though it might be, it’s the truth. So don’t give up. Work harder. Surge. Push.

Suck it up. You’re halfway there.

Now go out and run.

What tricks do you use to stay focused and on target at the halfway point of a race–or life? Impart your wisdom on me! I’m halfway through EVERYTHING right now!

Tangents

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!