The Running Doctor: The race experience
In the past, I ran in the Minuteman Road Race at Compo Beach. The race took place in late April, and although it started in the early morning, it became very hot and humid - nothing like the weather in which we had been training.
Every race is a learning experience and there are many tricks to proper racing style. It normally takes 4-5 days for the body to acclimate itself to warm temperatures. On the morning of this race, with the sun beating down on our heads at the starting line, and a late start, it became challenging.
Knowing from experience, I walked to the starting line with a bottle of cold water. The cold water goes into the body's circulatory system to keep tissues cool. The mental aspects of racing are most important. Runners need to develop mental toughness in order to succeed in competition. Each and every runner who has ever stepped onto the starting line feels the anxiety and experiences the emotions of competition.
So with the heat bearing down on us, it was good to know the points of the course, such as where the water stations are located and where the hill and the flats are in order to plan your strategy.
One of the most important factors of racing is to learn how to keep an even pace over the distance. An effective way to run the race is to break it up into thirds.
The first third is when to keep that even pace and get your second wind. You should know the middle third of the course so that you can pick up your pace. Finally, it should be easy to convince yourself that you are ready for the task at hand by keeping a good mental attitude in the last third.
The last third is the time for good racing style while getting up on your toes and leaning forward in a relaxed position from the ankle to the head. Then, push off with the last bit of weight on the big toe as you pick up the pace to the finish line for a personal record (PR).
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As for me, I'm always happy to finish in a respectable time with no injuries.
Robert F. Weiss is a podiatrist specializing in foot and ankle surgery. He was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials. Weiss is a veteran of 35 Marathons and has a practice in Darien: The Foot & Ankle Institute of Darien. For more information, visit www.therunningdoctor.net.