Dec 20, 2017

Find your best race distance

Have you found the race you can run fastest?

When it comes to finding a job, people tend to naturally gravitate toward professions that they're best equipped to handle  but what about running races? How do you determine if you're an ultramarathon runner or a 400m sprinter?

You may already be plugging away at a certain type of race, but you might have talents at other distances where you could produce more impressive results. This is how you find your fastest race... 

Listen to your heart

Uncharacteristically, we're not referring to heart rate monitors here. How fast you run at various distances is also about what's in your heart. If you don't enjoy training and racing in a specific type of event, then it isn't the ideal distance for you. Running is a demanding sport that can take a lot out of you, but ultimately it's about doing something rewarding. If you're not getting enough joy from your current training and racing regimen, it's likely time to switch to another distance.  

Compare your training runs

While the environment of a race has vastly different stimulus compared to an average workout, training runs can still be a strong indicator of your abilities. If you feel strong at the tail-end of a long run, lengthier endurance races may be your strong suit. The high-paced intensity of 5K's are attractive to some, and a turn off to others. Identify the distance you enjoy the most in training, and focus on it for your goal race. 

Use a Race Time Predictor

Even if you've only run 1000 meters, you can get a fairly accurate idea how long it would take you to complete a full marathon. This is accomplished with a Race Finish Time Predictor calculator, which is available for free in the SportTracks Labs. Think of the results from this calculator as a starting point. If it estimates that you can run a marathon in 4:44:57, challenge yourself to match or beat that time.

Illustrations of a checkered flag, a leg with knee pain, and a chart

Find it in the tempo run

A tempo run is a workout where you run at a fast pace for a sustained amount of time. You don't sprint hard and tire quickly, rather, you run at the fastest pace you can maintain for a long duration. They're closely related to lactate threshold runs, which you can determine by yourself with an LTHR test. If you're not utilizing threshold and tempo runs in your training, they're definitely something you should try out. In addition to their proven training benefits, they can help you find your best racing distance.

Track your recovery time from hard workouts

Intense workouts are supposed to hurt, but if the aches and pains continue long after the workout has ended, it could be a sign that you're training for a race that isn't your optimal distance. Keep a log of your recovery time from intense workouts. If you find that it impedes your ability to properly train, consider changing your goal race to a distance where you can be more competitive. Running is all about efficiency, and efficient recovery times are part of the package.  

Make sure you have enough time to train

If you determine that the marathon is the optimal distance for you, make sure you have enough time to properly train for it. Skipping workouts can hurt you on race day, and the likelihood of injury greatly increases as well. When you choose a training plan, make sure you have enough time to execute the entire thing. Hacking a few weeks off a 15-week training plan isn't advised. Train smart, race healthy and fast.

Keep a detailed workout log

The more workout information you record and save, the better equipped you'll be to determine your fastest racing distances. For example, use the Notes feature in SportTracks and describe how a workout felt. In the future you can revisit a list of workouts at that distance, and your notes will remind you how it felt. This is excellent information for zeroing-in on your optimal racing distance.

Enjoy yourself out there & happy racing!

Article written by Sam Mallery, Director of Marketing, Zone Five Software Inc.