For most runners winning the marathon you signed up for is far from the goal. Likely it's living to tell about it, and perhaps being able to sport the fashionably obnoxious race shirt. And, for most people you're competing against only one person...........the spandex clad warrior in the mirror.
It's interesting to me that we call these running events "races" when 98% of the pack is really only focused on racing against the time in their head, versus the thousands of people around them. In some ways this is why the running community is so awesome. Everyone is accepted, and the desire to strive towards pushing ones individual limit is truly what we honor and applaud.
Setting a Personal Best or getting a "PB" as the cool kids say, is a typical pursuit for runners. Not every race will give you the opportunity to get one, but there are definitely some ways you can optimize your chances, and ultimately perform at your best.
In this post, I'll give you 4 Tips To "PB" This Year.
PICK IT......PICK IT GOOD
If you're looking for a fast time a key consideration needs to be picking the right course. Not all courses are equal and there are a few things to consider:
Elevation profile is a good first measure to determine how well you're likely to
perform. Rolling terrain, elevation gain or even losses will have a direct impact on your time. Logically if you're climbing a bunch, it's tough to hold a record pace. But don't let a course with a net decline trick you either. I've seen countless runners blow up on courses with a declining elevation after getting sucked into a pace that was way too fast to sustain. Boston Marathon is a classic example of a course like this, where it declines for the first 15KM and then gradually climbs in the later stages, leading into the famous Heartbreak Hill.....where even the best runners can get destroyed. Flat courses tend
to be the most favorable if you're looking to go fast.
When you're looking at a specific race, check out the time results from past years and see what times the winners are putting up. If the elite runners are posting less than stellar finish times on a year over year basis compared to other races, this is telling you something.
Location is also a consideration, especially if you're traveling to race away from home as a change in climate and elevation will play into things. If you're heading somewhere hot, where temperature and humidity are factors, this can make it tough if you're coming from more moderate conditions. Same goes for time of year depending on where you're racing. Summer events can make for slower times, which is why spring and fall runs are often your best options for putting down your personal best times.
YOUR MEDAL COLLECTION IS IMPRESSIVE
.......but it could be killing your time. I see a lot of people that race a lot. Not to say this is a bad thing, but if you are running too many big events too close together
you're likely not maximizing your performance. Longer events such as full and half marathons need to be spaced out enough so that you have ample time to peak and recover. Finding the right balance and having a good race selection strategy is important when you're trying to see improvement.
There's a benefit in racing on a regular basis, as it helps you to learn how to effectively pace yourself, plus it gets you more comfortable in a racing situation. The key is to consider picking a couple key races that you really want to make your focus and then add some shorter set up and fun events to fill in the gaps.
Regular recovery cycles need to be built into a well developed training plan and if you're racing every month, you're not giving yourself the opportunity to run at peak levels.
SPONTANEUS = AVERAGE
One of the best things you can do to set yourself up for a PB this year is build an Annual Training Plan. Flying by the seat of your compression shorts when it comes to picking races will sabotage your results. There's nothing wrong with toeing the line last minute, but far too many runners fail to have a logical strategy in how they string together a season of running.
When I help athletes create an annual plan, I lay out a clear picture for what we're looking to accomplish over the next 12 months. From there I identify 2 or 3 "A Races" that will become the pillars on which I build the plan. These races need to make sense as part of the big picture and from there, the most effective plan can be developed.
Fitness peak periods can be forecast as well as recovery cycles, which ultimately deliver the best possible outcomes, while limiting the risk of injury. With 2 or 3 key races selected, it's easy to add additional races that supplement the plan versus hurt it.
FITNESS WILL ONLY TAKE YOU SO FAR
"Train Harder" maybe.........but if you're stuck at a plateau and feel like you can't break through to the time barrier you're at, you may want to consider what I call the "Running Trinity", which is basically the 3 variables within your control that will make you faster. FITNESS, FAT, EFFICIENCY. These 3 things must be working in tandem if you want to take your running game up a notch.
Fitness - This one should be a given. You've got to put in the workouts and the volume if you want to see success, but the trap that many people fall into when trying to improve race times is over training or scaling up too fast. If doing more is the only lever you're pulling to try to improve, you're putting yourself at risk of injury. Build slowly and ensure that you're building your fitness safely and smartly.
Fat - This one's gonna sting.......go step on your scale. Your weight might be right on the money, but it could be telling you that you're carrying around 5 or 10 extra pounds. This may not seem like much, but the impact of losing that extra insulation will have an immediate impact on your performance.
If you don't add a single ounce of fitness but lose the extra weight, you will be faster. For example using the Fellrnr race predictor, a 3:45:00 marathoner that weights 190 pounds would run a time of 3:35:00 at 180 pounds if fitness levels remained static.
Sorry to go all Richard Simmons on you, but this is a real easy way to find that extra speed. In the comments below let me know how you feel about your weight right now. Is it on point or do you think you can sharpen up the diet just a touch?
Efficiency - The last piece of the trinity puzzle is what I consider efficiency. What
I'm referring to here is how good is your running stride? Are you actively working at improving your running technique? Where is it slowing you down? Heel striking, improper posture, weak core, poor arm swing, are all things that can add unnecessary time to your race. This is another area that many runners don't spend enough time on. By developing your stride and building efficiency, you won't need to use as much energy when you run. When transferring this into a race, you can run at a faster speed with the same effort level you're at today.
One tool that you can use is video. At Legacy Endurance you can get a Video Stride Analysis and receive a full breakdown of your stride. This will help you to address the areas in your run that are slowing you down. It's an easy process and well worth checking out. Find out more HERE.
Hopefully these tips get you on the path to your next PB. Good luck. Happy Running!
Need a running plan? Check out our Pre-Build Solutions and Custom 1 on 1 Coaching Programs and CRUSH your PB this year! More Info right HERE