“I start out running too slow. My adrenaline and nerves at the start of a race slow me down. I just can’t seem to speed up.”
These are sentences I’ve never heard a runner say when giving their race recap.
On the other hand, raise your hand if after a race you’ve ever said “I started out too fast” or “I just couldn’t slow down enough during the first few miles and I blew it“.
Nearly every runner I’ve ever spoken to tells me that at some point during their running career they have had trouble starting a race at the appropriate pace. The best way to break this bad habit is to practice this during training and to have a specific race day pacing strategy in place.
However, fresh legs from tapering, race day excitement and adrenaline can make sticking to your pacing plan difficult in the first few miles of the race. Here’s what to do if you start out running too fast in your next race:
#1: Don’t panic. Acknowledge the fact that you are running too fast, but don’t judge your pace or yourself. Instead of beating yourself up with negative thoughts, tell yourself this: “I’m going too fast, but that’s okay. I just need to pull back the reigns a little to nail my pace.”
#2 Correct your course ASAP! It doesn’t take long to notice you started out too fast. Your breath rate, stride, arm swing and foot strike provide immediate feedback letting you know you’re off pace. Once you notice you’re off pace, slow down.
#3 Don’t pass the person just ahead of you: One of the easiest ways to slow down is to run behind the person in front of you instead of passing them. Then, once you’re behind them don’t allow yourself to pass them until you’re locked into your planned pace for the first few miles of the race.
#4 Give yourself a little leeway. As part of your race day strategy, plan on giving yourself the first .5-1.0 mile to settle into your pace. When you reach the 1 mile marker, slow your pace down. If you’re running a marathon or half marathon, running one mile a bit too fast won’t ruin your race. If you’re running a shorter race then you’ll need to reign your pace back in before you reach the one-mile marker.