Life is a Marathon, not a Sprint

Life has thrown a lot of curve balls at us in the year 2020!

We’ve had to learn how to take things one day at a time and work through challenges as they present themselves. One major change that athletes in the area are facing is that the 2020 Fargo Marathon is now taking place in the heat of summer, at the end of August.  While many are used to mentally preparing for the possible cold, snow, rain, or heat that May can bring, the humidity and heat of August will present a new challenge!

Navigating through a marathon is similar to approaching the challenges of life; Take it one mile at a time! While we aren’t in control of what the weather will bring or what the race conditions may be, we CAN control our training and preparation, approach to the run (pacing), and our mindset during the run. As race day quickly approaches, most have put in the majority of their preparation and training.

Therefore, I’m going to focus on pacing techniques commonly utilized by endurance runners during competition that could assist you (or our runners) in achieving a new PR during the upcoming marathon!

There are four main spacing strategies utilized by runners:

negative race pace, all-out pacing, positive race pace, and even pacing.  Negative race pace refers to a performance in which the average speed of the athlete gradually increases throughout the duration of the even.  The first half of the race is slower than the last. An “all-out” strategy is when the athlete accelerates throughout the race until reaching peak velocity, and then gradually slows until the finish.  A positive race pace is when the athlete’s speed gradually decreases throughout the event. The first half of the race is faster than the last.  And finally, even pacing refers to an athlete maintaining a relatively constant speed throughout the duration of the race.

Which pacing strategy do you fall under?

During endurance events, studies have shown that athletes utilizing “even-pacing” (constant speed throughout) strategies produce the fastest race times. A slightly negative race pace (gradually increasing speed throughout) has also been shown to be beneficial, though has been shown to be more effective as the race distance decreases.  While keeping an even-pace, or even a negative pace strategy may be the goal, there are many variables that could affect an athlete’s pacing.

As expected, environmental conditions always play a factor in our pacing; wind, rain, terrain, etc.  It has also been found that our level of hydration affects our ability to pace ourselves.  Performance decrements have been found in as early as 2% dehydration, resulting in a 3-6% decrease in running velocity. So make sure you are replenishing those fluids! It has also been found that there may be a gender advantage in regards to adhering to pacing strategies as females have been shown to naturally maintain a more even pace in both the half-marathon and full marathon distances.

Another factor that has been shown to affect athlete pacing is the aspect of herd mentality.  This can affect athletes from the very start, causing them to adopt a starting pace that is faster than their normal while running with a group.  This can lead to burn out and result in positive pacing (slowing speeds as the race progresses).  However, this herd mentality can also be beneficial by lowering mental fatigue and decreasing the need for decision making throughout the run as one is “following the pack” so to speak.

 Therefore, it may be ideal to run with athletes of similar abilities and running speed!

So, what’s the takeaway?

Grab a partner or two with compatible running speeds, stay hydrated, and trust your hard work and preparation! You’ve got this!

Good luck to all our runners!

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