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Here are five great tips for an effective Cross Country Race Strategy.
1. The first thing you need to do is start the race under control. Don’t sprint out too fast right away and waste all that valuable energy. I always tell the runners I coach that they hand out the medals at the finish line, not at the first turn. You need to run relaxed and fast at the start, not fast and furious.
2. Know your pace and stick too it in the race. Let’s say your goal time for the 5k is six minute mile pace or around a total time of 18:40. Don’t run the first mile in 5:10! You will burn out and end up crawling in the rest of the race. Try and run that first mile under control at around 5:45 at the fastest and then make sure you try and assert yourself later on in the race. When I look at the mile splits of the best runners, there usually is only a 10 to 15 second difference at the maximum from there first, second, and third mile splits. If you are out in 5:50, you need to be at least at 6:05 or under for the second mile. Don’t relax on the pace or else your last part of the race will be too slow.
3. Use the hills to your advantage. Don’t sprint up hills. You waste too much energy and you don’t get much bang for your buck. Instead, stay steady on the up hill, but once you reach the top while everyone who ran too fast up the hill is sucking wind, pick up the pace again and start passing people. It is a great strategy and works if you are mentally tough. Downhills you should run fast and in control, but at the end of the hill, when it flattens out, you need to try and hold onto that quicker pace for as long as you can. The momentum of the downhill will make it easier to hold onto this pace and you can pass people easily without spending a lot of precious energy.
4. Know the course. If you are the leader this helps you from getting lost. If you are simply following the other runners in front of you, be aware of sharp turns or other obstacles. Run curves smart by trying to keep as much momentum as you can kind of like a race car driver would take sharp turns. Start on the outside and cut in towards the flag and then round the corner smoothly and quickly.
5. Be physically and mentally tough. You will have to remind yourself often during a race that you can do it. Running isn’t easy, so be prepared to deal with some fatigue. Tell yourself later in the race. It’s okay that I am tired. So is everyone else. Just stick with it and focus on running fast and smooth. Push yourself all the way to the finish line.
Happy Trails – Coach Tief