How to Develop a Bullet Proof Race Strategy for Top Distance Runners

Race Strategies for your Middle Distance Runner

These athletes thrive off of speed work, fast intervals and ladder or pyramid workouts. They always seem to have that extra gear at the end of the race to take out a final handful of competitors before the finish line.

The key to a successful race strategy for these individuals is to predict all variables in a race situation, competition, conditions etc because in order for this style of runner to be successful, they need to be relaxed leading up to their finishing kick.

I am a huge proponent of pre-race visualization sessions, and I will elaborate on this practice in a future post. However, briefly, I believe for mid distance races, this is especially critical for these athletes. Visualization allows them to mentally prepare themselves for any set of circumstances that may unfold and how they will respond in a race situation.

Internalizing this is important, because so much of their racing is instinctual, so the more prepared they are, the more relaxed they can be in race, and they can let their preparation guide them based on what unfolds between the gun and the finish line.

Based on the competition, the best strategy for races of 800 meters up to the mile length for these runners is to maintain contact with the lead runners, and then to unleash their kick at whatever point in the race they feel confident they can maintain for the remainder of the event (practice this in workouts).

Preparing with a race strategy session for each of your athletes is important because it forces them to think through the race, and not be in denial that the race is going to happen. Putting this off until right before the event only serves to increase pre-race jitters and the more anxious your athletes are, the more likely they are to make a critical mistake in the race environment.

Tips for a middle distance race strategy:

  • Resist the urge to go out fast – when the adrenaline is kicked into high gear, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and sprint to the lead position off the gun. Unless this is the race strategy, to wear down the competition, drill this into your runner’s heads, that this will only serve to put them in oxygen debt sooner. With the shorter distance races, you don’t have time to recover from mistake like this.
  • Settle in quickly – your runner’s should find their position in the lead pack early, and just settle in as soon as possible. Justleing and vying for position only uses up energy and will take something out of their final kick.
  • Avoid getting boxed in – your runners need to be aware of what’s happening around them. Position shifts can leave them tight against the inside line, and easily blocked from making any position changes. Your athletes should settle into a position, not tight against the rail, but not out in lane 2 either, somewhere where they can easily maneuver past slower runners in the final straights.

The Benefit of Longer Races for your Middle Distance Runner

Moving these mid distance runners up to the 3200 meter or 2 mile is a bit of stretch for them, but a great strength building exercise, both physical running strength, and also mental strength.

They will benefit aerobically from this effort, building endurance and allowing them to experience something other than a fast paced, think on your feet race scenario.

The longer events build mental fortitude, as they give runners the chance to think, and to recognize the gradual increase in level of discomfort. Being able to endure this pain as lactic acid accumulation crescendos in the final few turns is a critical test of a runners pain tolerance, and fitness.

The other benefit of these longer races is teaching your athletes discipline. Go out too quick, and you will most certainly pay for it in the final laps. However, breaking the race down into 8 laps, and focusing on only the next 400 meters at a time, will develop a disciplined mind, and the ability to concentrate during a stressful event.

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