Running season is in full swing. From now until mid-December, the running calendar is jammed with a-grade events that feature distances from five to 50 kilometres.
Whether you're entering for fun, maintaining fitness in the lead up to Christmas or using the events as training for a bigger race, keep these four tips in mind to help achieve your goals and have a good time.
Endurance athlete and Nike + Run Club Coach Matty Abel says running should be easy and enjoyable; but that sometimes a person's running style can affect their pace and performance.
"Having a poor running style can cause a runner to use more energy than required on each foot strike, which over time, makes them fatigue a lot earlier than they should," says Abel. "Having a poor running form also increases your chances of injury."
"Something many of us strive for is almost flawless technique – using as little energy as possible and return for investment on each foot strike. Our running technique shouldn't change to much when running, only changes should be our stride length and cadence. The goal is for your technique to be energy efficient to be able to sustain your pace.
Abel recommends maintaining a short, quick stride. "Don't try to lengthen your stride and avoid reaching forward with your foot, which can lead to over striding," he says.
If you try to make big changes to your form suddenly, without giving your body a chance to adjust, you'll most likely end up injured. So how do you determine whether your form needs fixing? If you're running comfortably and injury-free, there's no reason to believe it does.
Monitor your speed
For an easy run, keep your pace consistent. Abel says that if you're taking an event more seriously, maintain a consistent pace for the first half of the race and try to have a negative split the second half, which will deliver you a faster finish.
Knowing your pace during the run will allow you to adjust your speed up or down so that you can reach your target distance or speed without expending too much energy or running too slowly.
Fight fatigue early on
Some days are going to be tougher than others.
The first kilometre of most events is packed with everyone finding their form and getting into the race. You can either focus on getting ahead of the pack (but be sure you have included this type of start in your training, or you will ruin your rhythm and be struggling in no time), stay on the edges and avoid the main foot traffic, or you can just work your way through the people, moving around people slower than you and allowing people faster than you to pass easily. After five minutes or so you should be able to get into your regular running rhythm.
If you find yourself fighting fatigue early in a race Abel recommends running with a friend or a social group. "Running with a buddy will help you push through the first couple of kilometres and find your pace and rhythm," he says.
"Generally, you'll start to feel good a couple of kilometres into the race and will find that sweet spot. If you're running solo, put in your headphones and blast your favourite tunes – this will help you tick over the first few kilometres."
Drink and eat smart
Depending on you're the distance you're running, research and plan how much fluid and carbohydrates you will need during the event, make sure you have a race plan, and stick to it. For example, you might decide every five kilometres to drink 100ml of water and every 15 kilometres to suck down a carbohydrate gel.
Tip: try not to have much to drink 30 minutes before the gun. Instead sip if your mouth is dry or if the weather is hot.
Abel says that if you're eating food on your longer runs, you'll need hydration to help your digest it. "A lot of running related stomach issues tend to happen when we're dehydrated, so make sure you drink enough water."
And keep in mind that first water stop in larger races often looks like a crowded train station platform at rush hour. If you're not thirsty, go ahead and skip it.
The goal of one day completing an ultra-marathon inspires running fanatic Laura Hill to clock up the kilometres each week. With a day job in the corporate world, Laura loves nothing more than lacing up her runners and hitting the pavement to clear her mind and challenge her body.
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