When we’re standing at the start of a race, whether it’s a 10km, ½ marathon, full marathon or Ultra we all get nervous and excited, our brain just wants to sprint off. We all know what happens when we push too hard at the beginning of a race, we overuse our energy levels and our body hits the wall halfway or ¾ into the race. The key is to manage to pace ourselves at the beginning of the race to be able to sustain our energy and target time.
Our body needs at least 3km to warm up. The key is to go slower than goal pace for the first few km. This slower pace will let your body warm up and start using energy efficiently. After the first 3km, you can increase your pace gradually for the next 2km.
Why do we need to warm up?
During the warm up, our body goes from inefficient fuel burning machine (converting oxygen, sugar/fat, electrolytes to energy), getting rid of lactic acid and build up heat (waste removal) to a more efficient one. If you push too hard at the start, your body will risk using an excessive amount of stored glycogen while accumulating an extreme amount of lactic acid and hydrogen ions- the result will be fatigue, heavy legs for the second half of the race. It is hard to start conservatively and pace yourself when everyone around you is flying by and you have so much energy and high adrenaline. The energy that you save at the start of the race will be very helpful for the last part of the race, it will make a difference between hitting the wall and feeling uncomfortable.
Settle in strong and stable
Once you get going, running smoothly, you will pick up the pace and start feeling stronger. You will have more energy to go uphill, and you can use the downhill to catch up. But again pace yourself on the uphill especially for longer distances, you don’t want to drain your body by over pushing on the up. Use the downhill to recover, breathe and relax the shoulders.
The key is to find your ideal pace to make sure you finish feeling strong, so you can push for the last few km. Towards the end, then you can take advantage of the adrenaline and excitement.
You don’t want to push to your maximum heart rate at the start of a race, being familiar with your heart rate or using a device with a HR monitor will help you pace yourself.
At the start of a race; taking in consideration all the adrenaline, make sure you don’t push more than 80% of your max HR.
First half; keep your HR between 60-80%
Second half; 60-80% for long distances and 70-90% for shorter race.
Here is an easy way to calculate your max heart rate.
Male athletes – HRmax = 202 – (0.55 x age)
Female athletes – HRmax = 216 – (1.09 x age)
Train Hard, Eat Right, Feel Great!