Dear Runners,

I know that many of you ran the Pure Tap 5K this weekend and I hope that you all had a GREAT race!  As with every race, most people do well, some of you did great and a couple of people just didn’t have a good day.  But before the day gets too far behind you it is important that you take some time to look back to the race and extract the salient lessons so that you can continue to become a better and smarter runner.  So this note focuses on reflecting on the race itself and provides a systematic series of questions to assess several parts of the race.  Later there is a section to help you predict future race times and in the end…another YouTube video. 

Let’s assume your race went well

Great!  You know, you trained hard and you deserved a really good race.  I am glad that you rocked it out like you planned. Frankly, I never had any doubts that you could do well.  It is important to put this accomplishment into perspective.  [sarcasm begins here] First of all, a good 5k can be used to predict every future race distance.  Sure there are some problems with the prediction process, but the calculators are on the internet…so they must be true.  Also, a good 5k time is more than a reflection of hard training…it is a reflection of life itself.  For instance, I once coached someone who ran a great 5K and within a week his male pattern baldness disappeared.  Really it’s (not) true.  [end sarcasm] 

Look the bottom line is if you had a good race, you should be really proud of yourself.  One of the best components of running is racing.  Maybe you are going after a faster time.  Maybe it’s just getting out there and saying you did it.  Maybe it is one of a thousand other reasons that make racing so awesome.  The bottom line is that you did it and you should feel proud!

But maybe you had a bad race

Ahhh dude(ette), that sucks!  You know, you trained hard and you deserved a good race.  Frankly, there are good days and bad and your bad day just happened to be last Saturday.  You know, you need to put this race into perspective.  First of all, a good 5k can be used to predict future race distances, but that only applies to good races.  AND…in the end, it is just a 5k, it’s not like a good time is going to cure male pattern baldness or something.  Really, it’s just a race and it just wasn’t your day. 

Either way

Okay, regardless of how your race went you need to know a few things.  1) you have been training hard and you really did deserve a great day.  Whether you had one or not, you deserved one.  2) Sometimes it just isn’t your day.  I have had many good races and I have also had a couple of races where I couldn’t do more than jog across the finish line.  It happens.  3) and this is the most important thing to remember, this race, and the next one are our “B” races.  We are training for the mini marathon and that is our “A” race.  Our goal is to do well in the A race and all of these other races are calibration points along the way. 

So let’s learn while we are here

Let’s start by reconstructing your race day from the beginning.  It’s easy to acquiesce these questions but I recommend that you consider each one so that you may make the appropriate changes to your racing and training strategy.  You need to ask yourself the following:

Getting Ready for the Race

  1. Did you develop a pre-race routine during the mornings of your long run? 
  2. Did you leave enough time to pick up your packet on Friday? 
  3. Did you get enough sleep the night before?  (The week before?)
  4. Did you get your race clothes/bib/shoes/safety pins/other stuff laid out the night before?
  5. Did you post a picture of your race stuff on Facebook?  (I really don’t know why people do this but its social convention so just go with it)
  6. Did you know the weather forecast for race time? 

Morning of the Race

  • Did you wake up on time?
  • Did you follow the pre-race routine that you developed during your long runs?
  • Did you eat breakfast before the race? Was it enough?  Too much?
  • Did you hydrate properly?
  • Did you park where you wanted?
  • Did you get to the race when you wanted?
  • Were you able to get the spot you wanted in the corral?
  • Did you find the person (people) you were supposed to meet before the race?
  • Were you nervous/anxious/sleepy before the race began?  How did you feel? 

During the Race

  1. Were you able to settle into your racing rhythm?
  2. Were you stuck in traffic?
  3. Did you start too fast? Too slow? 
  4. Did you fuel and hydrate properly?
  5. Were you able to run your own race? 
  6. Did you know the course?  Did anything surprise you? 
  7. Did you dress correctly? Too hot? Too cold?
  8. Were you able to associate/disassociate as you wanted? 

After the Race

  • Did you feel good?
  • Did you refuel/rehydrate properly?
  • Were you hurt?  Injured?  Need to take time off? 
  • Did you find the person (people) you were supposed to meet after the race?
  • Did you have clothes to change into? Were you cold after the race?

These are just a few of the questions you should be asking yourself after this race and every race in which you compete.  By paying consideration to those questions now, you can identify changes you want to make in your racing strategy for the next race and in your training strategy now.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to the coaches, staff or other runners to get ideas on anything that is hanging you up with your race day routine or racing strategy.  Sometimes there are scientific best practices, but a lot of times, it is just finding what works best for you. 

Race Prediction

Okay, I know that you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t at least a little bit of a type A personality.  And I know that most of you have already spent time looking at your race time predictions based on your 5K time.  So I wanted to take a few minutes to outline some basics about using race time predictors.  

It is important to remember that race predictors are based on a linear extrapolation of EFFORT not a linear extrapolation of PACE.  Most everyone understands that you can’t just take your 5K pace and multiply by 13.1 miles to get your ½ marathon time.  That rarely works.  Furthermore, from an effort standpoint, each time you double the distance you lose about 10% of your pace. 

However, what is often missed is that effort cannot usually be linearly extrapolated either.  Let me ask you this, the effort you put into your race on Saturday, that you held for 20, 25, or 30 minutes…could you hold that same pace and intensity for 2 hours?  Probably not.  So you need to remember that race effort (that you can maintain) decreases as race distance increases. 

That is okay because while you are working to increase speed during the races, we are also working to increase your stamina on the long runs.  So to some degree the two phenomena can cancel each other out, but usually not entirely.  Also, the accuracy of any predictor will decrease as the gap between the race distance you ran and the race distance you are trying to predict increases. 

The following table shows several 5K times as well as what that same effort would produce for a 10k, 10 mile and a ½ marathon race.  To compare the math, each step to the left or right equals a 2% change in effort level.  So you can view your times from the Anthem and then make reasonable estimates about your potential times in other races.  

V02 Max54.353.152.050.849.748.647.546.545.5
5k Time20:0020:2720:5421:2221:5122:2123:2223:5523:53
10K Time41:5942:5643:5444:5345:5446:5547:5949:0450:10
10 Mile Time1:09:511:11:261:13:021:14:411:16:221:18:051:19:501:21:381:23:28
1/2 Marathon Time1:33:201:35:261:37:351:39:471:42:021:44:191:46:401:49:041:51:31
V02 Max44.543.542.541.640.739.838.938.037.2
5k Time24:2624:5925:3226:0726:4227:1827:5528:3329:11
10K Time51:1852:2753:3854:5056:0457:2058:3759:561:01:17
10 Mile Time1:25:211:27:161:29:141:31:141:33:171:35:231:37:321:39:441:41:59
1/2 Marathon Time1:54:021:56:361:59:132:01:542:04:392:07:272:10:192:13:152:16:15
V02 Max36.435.6
5k Time29:5130:31
10K Time1:02:401:04:05
10 Mile Time1:44:161:46:37
1/2 Marathon Time2:19:192:22:27

Now for a video…If you ever are out running and happen to come across a cyclist you know that there can be a healthy tension between the two sports.  This video helps to elucidate some of those tensions.  Enjoy…

Run well…


Shawn Herbig is an RRCA Certified Running Coach.  In his day job he owns a market research and data analytics firm called IQS Research. 

© 2013 Shawn Herbig