How to win that race with your head!

We are coming into the racing season, so most of us will be entering into fun runs, half marathons or marathons, and all of us will be trying to have a good run, beat our last time, and finish!!

One of the ways to run well and achieve our goals is to beat other runners! I don’t mean in a horrible, overly competitive way, but in a way that challenges us personally and makes us feel we have really pushed through and tried our best.

Most of us know we will never come first place in a race...However, when we are matched up with other runners of equal running ability there are ways to run smarter so you can beat them.

There are two things to beat in races, other runners and the clock. Beating the clock is by running faster, training well and preparing for the race. Beating other runners can be more tactical, you can do it with your mind as well as your body!

You would be amazed at some of the tactics elite athletes use on each other to try to boost their winning performance in races...now I’m not saying you drug other runners drinks or trip them up...but just get smarter and look for some clues, without giving any away yourself

Run an even pace- How many times have we done it ourselves or seen it done by other runners...the gun goes off, you take off like a shot, 2 km up the road you are struggling, and have slowed down, and you start getting overtaken by all the people you just passed. I always have a laugh to myself when I see all these guys zipping past me at the start and then a few kms up the road they are walking, i jog past them and then off they go and pass me again, and what’s the bet further up I pass them. My preferred position in a race is to start off slow, get into a good rhythm assess how I feel at every km, and when I’m ready, I lift a bit in the second half and then try to pass as many runners as I can. Not only is it a better way to run and finish, but it give you a good mental lift to be able to pass and not get passed!

Pick your Mark- Keep looking forward when you are running and find someone in the distance who you think you can take. I do this all the time, I say to myself , “Ok red t-shirt 100 metres in front, you are gone”, but then I don’t race up and pass, I just sit on my pace, seeing if I can shorten the distance between us, I get up to him gradually (it could take 15mins or so, on one occasion it took an hour and a half!), then I sit in behind him for a bit until I’m ready to go in for the kill, then when I’m ready I run past really strong, and lift the pace until I’m about 30 metres in front, as I don’t want him passing me again straight away, at that point I’ve forgotten red shirt and I’ve got my eye on blue shirt 50 meters in front. It is a great game to play, very distracting and never lets you get into the old slow plod, that you often go into in long distance races. Mind you it doesn’t always work and after a while if you are not gaining on your target, ditch him and find some other victim!

Never Look Back- You may want to see how many people are behind you, you may want to see who is breathing down your neck, or spitting behind you...but never look back, always look forward to the finish...looking back is a sign of weakness and the other runners behind you will sense that ...tell yourself, you don’t need to know what those losers back there are doing...that’s why I always put Lazy Runner on the back of my tops, so everyone can read the name before you run out of sight!

Find yourself a wind break- If the weather is crap, lots of wind and rain, sidle in behind a few runners and sit there, let them do all work, running directly into the wind means you need to increase your effort by about 7%, give someone else that percentage...then when the weather or conditions improve, make your move

Read other runners signs- Ok you are running neck to neck with someone all the way, neither of you are prepared to get passed, and after a while you tell yourself, I’m never going to beat this guy. Start reading some body language and signs. Breathing...is his breathing short and heavy?...does he breath in with one stride and out with one?..this means he is struggling...however if he is breathing in with two strides, his feeling Ok, if he takes three strides on every breath, he has plenty left in the tank. Posture...is he starting to get smaller? Shoulders rounded, head dropped, feet low to the ground, maybe shuffling..then he is going, going , gone... so hurry up and get past him. Look at his face..does he look in pain, squinting, touching or wiping his face a lot...he is struggling. In fact some elite runners will always wear sunglasses, not just due to the bright sunlight, they don’t want other runners to read any pain or weakness in their eyes...it's true!

Don’t give away weak signs- you need to be aware of the signals you are sending out as well, if you look weak, runners will jump on it and use it to their advantage. Keep your chin up and eyes ahead, this is a confident look and even though you may be dying inside you will look committed and strong. When someone runs past and says “How’s it going mate?’, you first response may be “I feel like crap and I’m hating every minute of it”, never say that, say “Feeling really good mate, how are you?..you look like you are feeling it a bit”, you have just socked him a double blow, you have left him thinking that you are doing it easy, but he’s struggling...then just run past him!! Saying something negative about yourself is not good, you have to keep the positive talk going, so let all the competition know you are strong and unbeatable, it will have a good psychological effect on you

Don’t be sucked in by the spectators- I had many discussions and laughs with fellow runners after long distance races about the terrible spectators, they are usually fat, never run a step in their lives and position themselves about 5km from the finish line and decide to shout out some advice. They have all those great one liners like “come on , keep running”( you want to say...you keep running you lump of lard), “you are nearly there” (you want to say...5km is not nearly there you idiot) “Not long to go” (you want to say..How would you know) “ You are up to the easy bit now’ (you want to say..how can anything after 30km be easy?) And much more. There are many times I have felt if I had the energy to run over to them I would hit them! Don’t let this frustration and anger be a negative...anger is good at this point, it’s a strong emotion and you can use it, get angry with them feel the adrenaline charge it will help you...as long as you don’t slap one of the drinks people, you should be fine! 

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