Saturday, May 1, 2010

My bag of tricks

In preparation for the half marathon tomorrow I have decided to write a post about my bag of tricks I use to keep on keeping on when the going gets tough.

1. Break it down: and down and down and down. I find it really helpful to break the race into manageable chunks. This is hardly a novel concept but I find as I get more fatigued, I make the chunks ever smaller until I am literally telling myself to just get to the next traffic light... the next parked car.... the madly barking dog... and as I make my way to each milestone I tell myself that ALL I have to do is to get there and then if I really want to, I can stop. And in the moment, I actually manage to convince myself that is true (that I will stop if I really want to). I have convinced myself of this over a dozen consecutive times. One part of my brain must be incredibly persuasive while another must be very easily fooled.

2. Reassess: sometimes I find that I simply assume I am feeling bad, as in, I am 20 miles into a marathon, running on a PB pace therefore I must feel awful. However, if I make a mental sweep of my body, checking the various components, I am sometimes pleasantly surprised to realize that I don't actually feel that badly. It may sound strange that I might not automatically know that I am feeling strong but mid-race assumptions can mask my actual state.

3. Float: If I am feeling really terrible, I will allow myself to deliberately slow down until a fixed landmark in order to recoup. I recently started trying this during intervals. In my 6 X 1 km work-out, I would float the middle 300 m and I found that my total time was exactly the same as when I ran the whole interval even with the added benefit that it felt easier (which I know is counter to the basic rule of running efficiency i.e. that it is most efficient to run at an even pace).

4. Believe in the pain of my opponents: sounds very Klingon-like and a little bit mean-spirited but I do find it helpful to remind myself that everyone around me is likely suffering as much as me.

5. Walk: Yup. I walk sometimes. In fact my marathon PB was done with 3 walking breaks. One of my strengths as a runner is that I respond very well to tiny snippets of rest. This means that when I am starting to fall apart, it is often very effective for me to take a walking break (usually one minute in length and timed such that it occurs around a water station so I can take advantage of the break to get hydrated). I find when I am falling apart, a one minute walking break usually only slows my mile time down by 30-40 seconds and the next few miles are appreciably faster than before the break.

Which of these tricks will I use tomorrow I wonder?


  1. Best of luck tomorrow and thanks for the tips! I bargain with myself too! I like the pain of my opponents one and am not ashamed to admit it!! I find that when I walk, it hurts more than just trotting or running slower. Things start to really hurt when I slow to a walk.

  2. Thanks for the ideas. I look forward to hearing how tomorrow goes for you! Good luck!

  3. Good luck! Great tips. Incredible about the walking. Who would have guessed?!

  4. Awesome tips. I will try to incorporate them into some of my longer races.

  5. oh cool! I do walk too, sometimes, and do not think it makes me a bad runner.. but it is sooo nice to at last be able to say it aloud, now that I know I am not alone in walk-can-save-your-life-h-well-if-not-your-life_your-race-at-least land!