by Chris Offler in Stories

Time: unpredictable and manageable

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Time, the thing we all have, but are all severely lacking. Time can have various meanings, and is never more versatile than when running.  Be it those arduous miles on a cold Sunday morning where time seems to be ticking by ever so slowly, to the last 400 metres of a potential personal best busting 10k where the seconds have never slipped away quicker.

This could all add up to be something to hate, but I am here today to tell you that this unpredictable, versatile, never slowing machine is something that should be embraced. When you’re into the mile 18 of the marathon you’ve trained so hard for and everything is burning, telling you to stop, it’s time that is on your side.

You’ll know whatever happens, time is going to get you through, help you heal, and bring you onto the next challenge. Also the all-conquering 10k, the event that will always be there, always have that tantalising aurora of progress and hope. Here is where time can be both your greatest ally and fiercest foe. Running down that line, your first sub-40 minute time might just slip away with the fire burning through your legs, but it can also be a tool for ultimate individual success.
The planning that can go into this can end up making sure time is on your side, be it for a longer distance runner with less speed, or for that explosive runner who needs to time their bursts a little better. You’re not racing against the rest of the field, you’re racing against yourself, and the clock, but with both of these things, a race plan can do wonders for your chances.

When you’re into the mile 18 of the marathon you’ve trained so hard for and everything is burning, telling you to stop, it’s time that is on your side.

This applies to both training and racing as, lets be honest, there’s not much point in planning every single aspect of your training and then not having at least a bit of a plan for a run. This was my problem, I’ve got meticulous training plans, from exact distances, routes, times, you name it, but when it came to my last couple of races, I just kind of went. So this is a plea to you, if you don’t already, at least plan a little bit.

How, you may ask?

Well, this can vary and depends a lot on the distance of your race, but lets start with the big one.

If you’re running a marathon, chances are you’ve been training for a while, and one of the first things you should have done with this training is think about what sort of time you want to finish in (don’t start worrying if you haven’t, it may add a bit of structure but won’t have a huge overall impact on training).

A great place to start for your race plan is simply finding out what time you should be running each of your miles at. Now many marathons do this already for set times such as 3, 3:30, 4 hour etc. but you can easily make your own for these! Once you’ve got this structure in place, it’s important to remember this isn’t rigid for your race, if you hit one while twenty seconds slower than your pace band suggests, you still have miles to pick this back up! Next up for these long races is your ability to maintain pace throughout. They may not be for everybody, but a kick of energy from a gel or other boost can really help through those tough moments when time just doesn’t seem to be on your side.

The ‘per-mile’ pacing is great for long and short distances alike, but with those shorter races (10k and below) there are some different things you can do to get through. For a 5k and 10k they can be deemed the ‘sprints’ of the longer distance world, and so managing pace is just as important as in those marathons.
Those of us who revel in a longer run but can sometimes struggle for that pace (I know there’s others like me out there!) over the shorter distances, and for this you can perhaps try and start off a little bit quicker than your personal best pace and use that endurance to get you through. There are of course those who have the natural pace but may run out of puff towards the end of the race, and in these situations, it’s definitely best to plan to try and save that burst for the end of the race.

Considering the long hours you’ve put in through the rain, the wind and the cold, a little bit of planning for your race can go a very long way, what would you say your different ways of planning for a race are?

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