Art or a Science

The Art of running

Anyone, and I mean anyone can run the first mile of a race at a fast pace, we can all boast that we were on for a sub (30min 5k/60min 10k/2 hour half/4 hour marathon) but it's how you finish the last mile that counts.  There seems to be a rush to run as quick as you can but in my experience this often leads to disaster in many ways, you can become injured and be out of running for a long time, or you hated the actual race so much it's put you off running because you didn't like the feeling it gave you or you were sick at the end or for a few days afterwards.  Getting the pacing right for any run/race is an art and can take many years to perfect it, there is a fine line between running a PB success or a PW disaster.  This fine line can be the difference between whether you hang your trainers up for good or just chalk it down to experience, dust yourself off and try again. 

Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves and we can get caught up in the lead up to a big RV event and getting caught up and running a race just a bit faster or a bit slower can change the energy system that our body is using and this can lead to disaster.

What makes it more difficult is that your sense of reasoning goes out of the window as you stand on the start line, adrenalin pumping, heart racing and crowds cheering you on.  My advice? Give your pace in a race some serious thought before you get to the start line.  

It may interest you to know that every current world record from 1500m to the marathon has been set by the athlete running a negative split....what is a negative split? A negative split is where you run the second half of the a run faster than the first.  Basically you don't run your first mile as though you are Paula Radcliffe (Paula holds the world record marathon time for any women and her first half of this run was run in 68.02 minutes and her second half was run in 67.23 minutes).

The Science bit....

Distances of 10 miles or half marathons should be run at or slightly above your lactate threshold pace....WHAT???!!!

"While lactic acid contributes to why we hurt at the end of races, lactate is actually a source of energy. Your body breaks down glucose for energy and a by-product of this process is lactate. During easy running, your body reconverts and recycles this lactic acid back into energy and efficiently expels the waste products. Therefore, the production of lactate will remain relatively constant while running at an easy aerobic (talking) pace, which doesn’t require a huge demand for energy.

As you continue to run faster and demand more energy, the production of lactic acid will slowly increase. At some point, whether it be too fast a pace or holding a steady pace for too long, the production of lactic acid will soar and your body will no longer be able to convert lactate back into energy and expel the waste products. This point is commonly referred to as your lactate threshold. The lactic acid then floods into system, muscle power is diminished and you begin to slow down (I refer to this as the bear jumping on you!) Ultimately, lactic acid is one of the largest contributors to why you slow down as the race goes on."

The idea is then that if you run slightly slower than this threshold for as long as possible, particularly at the start of the race, you prevent waste products from building and causing fatique.

The aim is to get to the last quarter of the race with energy to kick those last miles and finish strong.  To do so you must start the first mile or two of a race slightly slower than goal pace.

You can soon learn where your lactate threshold is and this is a great thing to do and on a few runs you should listen to your body and your breathing and get a sense of where you feel your threshold is.  I often race without a watch so that I can pace on how I feel and this has worked for me in the past.  Remember it's a journey and sometimes we will have epic fails after months of training but as I said, running is an art and a science, a bit like a recipe, we see what works, what doesn't, take a bit out or add a bit in until we find what works. So running is a bit of both, an Art and a Science.