Racing the Big Sur Half Marathon

Some folks enter races just to finish; others are gunning for their fastest times. If you fall in the latter category at this Sunday’s Big Sur Half-Marathon, here are some tips for RACING the 13.1 miles:

Have the eye of the tiger: Racing isn’t easy! The race itself should be a battle. The satisfaction comes after. Be mentally ready and don’t feel intimidated.

Warm up: If you are going fast from the gun a thorough warm up is important. Run an easy mile, do three or four short sprints, then jump in the starting chute about 5 minutes before race time. And remember the starting chute is a bit further down Del Monte Avenue than last year’s race.

Hitch a ride: in the slipstream of your competitors. Drafting off fellow runners is perfectly legal and saves significant energy, especially if running into a headwind on Ocean View Boulevard in Pacific Grove.

Anytime you get passed by a slightly faster runner make sure to tuck in behind them. If running with similarly paced runners, talk them into taking turns leading and blocking the wind.

Be uncomfortable: If you are truly racing, it should hurt! If you feel comfortable, you probably aren’t pushing hard enough. Races are for going beyond your comfort zone and giving your best effort. On the other hand …

Don’t bonk: Keep your engine at the absolute fastest speed you can maintain, but not so fast that you flame out in the final miles. You want to push the envelope, but be sure to save something for the last 5K. Proper pacing is the hardest part of racing, requiring experience learned from trial and error, and usually a lot of discomfort.

Halfway done isn’t halfway out: The course is roughly out and back, but the first few miles around El Estero Lake and downtown Monterey make it asymmetrical. If you start looking for the turnaround point at mile 6.5, you’ll have a long time to wait, since it’s actually near mile 8. But once you get there, remember to…

Lower the hammer: After the turnaround, the course is almost entirely downhill or flat, and you’re more than halfway done. This is the time to crank your speed up another notch, and gut it out for as long as possible (have we already said that racing hurts?).

Have no friends: Think of everyone around you as a competitor. Get mean. Be aggressive. Breathe fire. Even if you are racing with training partners, during the race you should be enemies. After all, they’re trying to beat you!

Fight for your place: Once you reach the rec trail before Fisherman’s Wharf, the game is on. Try to improve your position as much as possible and don’t let anyone pass you – or keep up with runners who try.

Don’t get complacent to run behind people. Reel in as many people as possible. The last person you pass might be the place that earns you an age group medal. Some people let up a bit just before the finish line, so a well-timed kick can sometimes gain you an additional place or two.

Obviously, racing requires a different mindset than running just to complete the distance. It’s definitely not for everybody. Whether you are going for an age group award, a personal record, or just trying to make it to the finish, we hope everyone has a satisfying race on Sunday.

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