Racing Strategy: Are You Racing Against the Clock or the Other Runners?

Do you chase a time or the win?

When I started running races, I always ran to chase a certain time. I wanted to PR (get a personal record) every time I ran. I was often placing in the top 10 percent of runners, but I was nowhere near winning. For me, the races were all about beating myself. I wanted to go faster than I did before.

Chasing a PR is a great goal. But lately I have learned that there comes a time when you have to stop chasing a number on the watch and start focusing on just winning or catching the racer in front of you. When you start finishing in the top few runners, beating that one runner in front of you can make a huge difference. Also, some races are just going to be slower. Maybe it’s the race conditions or maybe it’s just a slower mix of runners that signed up. Regardless, if a 22 minute 5k time will get you the win, why run it in 19? Better to stay fresh so that you don’t need as much recovery time.

This weekend at the Colgate Games for women in track and field, I really had to remember this strategy. My first race was the 1500 meters. I went in with a tight hip and hamstring. Nearing the end of the race, I had secured my place in 10th. I wouldn’t be able to catch the runner in front of me. So I made the decision to lay back a little and save the energy for my second race. My time sounded miserable, but I still placed 10th, same as I would have if I had pushed myself to exhaustion.

My second race was the 800 meters (half a mile). I took off slow. We all did. But then there was another runner that wanted to cut over in front of me. I heard her coach tell her to cut me off and take the inside of the track. And my competitive fire was lit. I refused to let her in. I ran hard.  We raced side-by-side for a few laps before she was able to cut over. But I chased my competition. I wanted it more. I caught her and passed her, taking 7 seconds off my best time at the same time.

Do you have a strategy when you run?

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