Posted by: Joe English | March 14, 2010

Training — Tips for developing your kick at the end of a running race

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

I’ve had a number of people that have asked me recently how to develop their kick — or closing speed — at the end of a running race. Usually these questions come early in the season when people are running a lot of 5K and 10K races and they’re in more pitched battles than in marathons or half-marathons later in the season. For the sake of this post, I’ll focus on developing closing speed in shorter races.

What we’re talking about here is the following scenario. Let’s say you’re in a 5K road race. You’ve made it through the first 2.5 miles and you’ve found yourself in one of two situations: 1) you’ve just caught up to someone ahead of you and you decide to overtake them, or 2) someone has just caught you and you need to decide whether you are going to challenge them.

These present themselves somewhat differently. In the case of catching someone, you’ll likely have the element of positive energy and adrenaline that may take over and carry you forward. If you’re being passed, you’ll have to first make a split-second decision as to why you’re being passed (are you slowing down or did the person behind you speed up, for example) and defensively decide what to do. In either case, let’s assume that we’re 1/2 mile from the finish-line and we’ve decided to go for it. It will now come down to what you did to prepare and how you play the next 30 seconds!

Those first 30 seconds
Those first 30 seconds are so critical, because you have the ability to blow the whole finish of your race apart in how you react. As we’ll get to in talking about your training, you must have trained at higher speeds to be able to sustain higher speeds over more than a period of a few seconds. If you haven’t done that training and you pick up your pace to a speed that you can’t sustain (let’s call it a ‘sprint’ for now), you’re likely going to carry that speed for about 30 seconds or so and then dramatically slow down. In fact, you’ll probably slow down to a speed even slower than you were running before you took off — because you will have plunged yourself into oxygen deficit and will be suddenly panting or find your muscles screaming at you.

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