On Saturday 5th January 2013 the Lancashire Cross Country Championships were held at Witton Park, Blackburn. The 4 lap course which is approximately 10k, is a traditional mix of terrain – inclines, hills, descents and of course plenty of mud.
It never ceases to amaze me how many people charge off at the start of a race. Some do this for fun but some don’t, they just get carried along with everyone else. I think many are unaware that before they’ve really even got going they have harmed their chances of a good performance.
Running like most sports requires a certain amount of experience or knowledge, predominantly about your energy production, which in-turn relates to your pacing. Over a course of this nature most runners will make around 10,000 strides (10,000 metres). Those strides will be a mixture in length but on the whole they should warrant approximately the same amount of energy to perform. If you monitor this well you’ll be in a good position to make the 2nd part of your race slightly faster than the 1st. Then chances are you will run other runners down and come relatively close to your most optimal time for that particular day. This can work slightly differently for each person but in general most people would benefit from learning to run more controlled and ‘negative splitting’ their race.
I have not done a cross-country race since I was at school – so when a certain someone sent me the application form via email I accepted the invite to enter. Obviously I wanted to do well but didn’t really do anything specific to condition myself for it, as I’m currently not focusing on my running. I prepared like any other race though and in the days leading up I payed closer attention to all the necessary areas. I pre-warned myself about how I thought most people would start and that I would definitely not go off too fast.
As you can see from the video many runners are quick ‘out of the blocks’ but a vast majority of them slow down to some extent before the end of the race. Some have to slow down very quickly after the start, others it may be in the middle or later stages of the race. At just over half-way – 2min15 on the video, I come over the top of the main ‘climb’ and I came up behind a runner in long black socks. As I was slightly speeding up and he was slightly slowing down I passed him. Due to my negative split I subsequently finished over a minute ahead of him – 5min10.
Many athletes are suffering so much that they almost walk over the finish line. This is either because they are just not actually fit enough for the race, or they have simply paced it wrong and gone too hard too soon. On the whole, your effort should be timed so that the fastest part of your race is in the closing stages – the nature of the finish will be determined by either pre-set goals or spontaneous competitiveness. I personally like them both…..