Thursday, August 18, 2011

Running Your Best Mile - Race Day Strategy

By Wayne Joness with help from Coach Skip Stolley

Arrive early and warm-up well!  A rigorous warm-up is more important for a one mile race than any other road race distance you run.  Most runners use the first mile of a 5K or 10K to "settle in", to get a feeling for their race pace. Then they wait until the last half of the race to dig-in and really challenge themselves to finish strong.  There is no time to do this in a mile race.  In your warm-up for a mile race, you need to cross-over into doing some fast anaerobic running.  Then, 10-minutes before race time, you need to do several strides of 60-100 meters at a faster pace than you will run during the race in order for the early pace to feel comfortable.  Be fully warmed up when you step up to the starting line!

Be prepared for a fast first quarter mile:  Whether you run 4:20 or 7:20 for the mile, the pace for your first quarter mile is going to be fast. If you have never run a road mile before, take your best 5K mile pace and subtract :30 seconds to approximate your mile goal time.  For example, if you run a 5K in 21:45, your pace is around 7:00 per mile.  Therefore, for a road mile, you should aim for a time of 6:30 or faster.  In this example, the first timing clock at the ¼ mile mark should display around 1:38.

Halfway there - the half mile mark:  The most critical portion of the mile is between the half-mile and the three-quarter mile mark.  If you simply maintain your effort, you will find that you are actually slowing down in this third segment of the race. As you approach the half mile timing clock, you will be feeling tired, but should be inspired by the fact that you are halfway to the finish of your best mile run ever.  If you are near your goal time (for a 6:30 mile, an even pace would be 3:15), stay in the moment and hang in there.  Concentrate on keeping your leg turnover consistent. The end is too far off to start worrying about your finish.

Three-quarter mile mark:  The end is in sight!  Even if you are running on fumes, you have less than 100-seconds of running left before you cross the finish line.  You should be able to see the finish line at this point.  Remember that kick you had when running your best 10K?  Zero-in on the runners in front of you and try to pass as many of them as possible in the last 1/4 mile.  Focus in on the finish line clock and listen to the crowds cheering.  Consider Roger Bannister's battle to break the 4:00 mile...something that was believed to be unattainable in 1954!  It was his sheer will of spirit and determination that carried him across the finish line in 3:59.4.  That same fire resides somewhere inside you too!  And today is the day for you to run your best mile ever!

Post-run cool down:  After the satisfaction of this all-out running, you need to give your heart rate, respiration, and body temperature a chance to gradually return to normal!   As soon as possible, begin to do some easy jogging.  Let your heart rate slowly return to normal. Afterwards, do some light stretching.  (You'll be happy you did tomorrow.)  The crazy thing about running a road mile is this: when you cross the finish line you will believe that you couldn't have run one stride further or one second faster.   But a half an hour later, you will probably want to run it again to see if you could faster! Regardless, it will be better for you to rehydrate and enjoy watching the other runners tackle the unique challenge of running a road mile.