It’s called a race. Not a fun run, community jog, or volksmarch. A race. That word has some serious connotations for runners, both in terms of preparation and for the actual event itself. But the one attachment I think we overlook too much is that races are competitive events, meant to pit you not only against yourself and your outer limits of performance, but against those around you as well.
It can be tough to find your inner competitor, especially when you put into context that everyone around you has worked just as hard to perform well and that running, in the context most of us do it, is a highly personal pursuit. Yet there’s nothing more gratifying than a strong finishing kick for the line, passing other racers along the way. The kick is what separates good runners from great runners, and is a testament to conditioning and mental resolve. But what constitutes a solid finishing kick?
1. Know how long you can push it. Depending on the length of the race, the topography of the finishing area, and the size of the crowd, you’ll only have so much juice in the tank to kick with. During the last mile, start assessing your surroundings and how you feel, and determine the resources you have left for a big finish.
2. Once you commit, go all in. The worst feeling in the world is a kick that fizzles out because you start questioning whether you have the legs, lungs, or fortitude left. Much of what goes into surviving a kick is the six inches between your ears (the phrase I use to refer to one’s mindset). So once you pull the trigger on a kick, you need to go all in mentally. Your body will respond, and probably can push harder than you give it credit for.
3. So how fast should I run in my kick? A kick is not a sprint. Let’s get that out of the way. You’re still in your usual running motion, midfoot strike and all. But I approach the kick like a stride – more powerful, a little longer stride length, a little faster turnover. If, on a scale of 1 to 10, your default pace is a 5 during the bulk of the race, you should be up around a 7 or 8 on the kick.
4. Target locked. The biggest key is looking up, finding someone you want to pass before the finish, and making that your goal. Does that sound a little cold after 13 miles? I guess, but like I said before, it’s a race, not a fun run. Even after you pass your target, don’t let up, because they may decide to try and pass you back before the finish.
5. Run through the finish. Too often, I see people at the end of a race starting to pull off the gas several steps shy of the actual finish line. This is also where I tend to add one more pass in many instances, much to the chagrin of the other party. So don’t run up near the line, or to the line, but several steps through the line. Yes, we all want to stop running after a long race, but a few extra steps won’t hurt.
It can be thrilling to pull off a great finishing kick. The crowd senses it and cheers a little louder. The runners around you start to push a little harder. And at the end, everyone has left it all on the course. So don’t be afraid to throw a big finish in the mix after an otherwise steady race – it’s fun, it’s taxing, and in a race, it’s kind of the point.
QOTD: What do you have to add to this list?