Sometimes the best way to speed up is to slow down. If you’re dead set on becoming a better runner, one of the most crucial skills to master is controlling your pace. We’ve tapped British long-distance gold medalist and New Balance athlete Kate Avery (@KateAvery12) to reveal the tips and tricks you need to perfect your pacing. Keep things steady and absorb them all…
I am the competition
A key factor driving runners away from their planned pace is the competition. When someone breezes past you round a tight corner, the temptation to reel them back in can be overwhelming. But should you play the long game and hope they gas out down the road, or storm past them on the next straight and risk becoming exhausted?
“I generally have a mindset of trying to execute your own race,” says Kate. “You try not to get caught up in what other people are doing. Focus solely on yourself and you’ll get the most out of your performance.” Looking at your own goals rather than paying too much heed to other runners allows Kate to keep a few extra gears ready for when she really needs them. Breaking the race into markers – 2K, 5K and so on – and beating your own time goals pits you against the only competition that matters: yourself.
Fuel your fitness
You can’t run the race you want if you haven’t got the energy to see it through to the finish. The morning of race day, Kate opts for porridge, a banana and a nice cup of tea. It sounds like standard fare, but porridge oats contain the ultimate blend of protein and slow-release carbohydrates, while studies in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition have found the antioxidants and caffeine in black tea make it a brilliant primer for sustained cardio.
If you’re looking to experiment with your pre-race fuel, account for this well ahead of time. “You need to find what works for your body,” says Kate. Try out a range of foods and beverages before recreational runs to discover what your body responds to best – whether it’s porridge, brown rice or a pre-race glucose hit.
Adapt and survive
Learning about your body is the only way to get the best out of it. Knowledge of your capabilities and weaknesses dictates how fast you should run, how to fuel your body to the finish and how best to recover after the race. So how do you respond to what your body’s trying to tell you?
“Trial and error plays the biggest part,” says Kate. “Work with how you feel during recreational runs.” Training should be about more than getting fitter; it should be an exercise in how to treat your body. If you’ve had a bad run, don’t blame yourself; think about what you did differently. If the only variable was swapping oats for an omelette, pick yourself up and go back to the porridge. The reason for a bad run might not always be so clear cut, but pay enough attention to how your body responds to different foods, conditions and climates and you’ll arm yourself against any mishaps come race day.