Controlling the urge to take it out too fast

Jason posted a list of the most common marathoning mistakes the other day and one was, not surprisingly, going out too fast. Not that I’d know anything about that or anything…GUILTY! On more than a few occasions.

Keep the first mile(s) in check

It’s funny, when I used to do triathlons exclusively, I was really good at keeping my early run pace in check, and to good effect. I don’t know if it’s the fact that, no matter how many bricks you do, your legs are just going to be a big sluggish in that first 1/2 mile or so of a triathlon? Not sure, but I do know that my 10k PR to this day came at the end of an Olympic-distance tri.

Once I switched to mostly running races, I discovered that I sometimes take my races out too fast. For someone whose legs love to negative split, this is a recipe for disaster. I’ve had enough of these experiences to learn from them. That said, here are my tips for keeping the pace in check at the start:

  • It’s got to feel slow–ridiculously slow–when you first start the race. Maybe it’s tapered legs, maybe it’s adrenaline, or maybe both, but for some reason, that first mile never feels hard, even if it’s too fast. Counter that effect by making sure you feel like you are moving at a snail’s pace. You won’t be, trust me.
  • Let others go. Resist the urge to take off with others who have forgotten the last tip. You’ll pass them later when they get tired–and it will feel good too!
  • Check your splits early and often. If that first miles clocks in too fast, slow it down right away. You don’t have much of a chance to save a little something for the end if you don’t get control of the pace asap.
  • Make a plan to negative, or at the very least, even split the race and then stick to it. Don’t let the “I’m feeling great” sensation take over.
  • Repeat after me: “I’m going to suffer like a dog if I don’t run a smart race.” You don’t want to do that, do you?

Have you ever taken a race out too fast and paid for it?

What tips would you add to the list?

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  1. says

    Totally agree, I used to be the Crash Master. But I love the second one. Sometimes I resist the urge to laugh when so many people go sprinting by … never fails, you catch them later. You’re cruising and they’re dying. I agree with everything you said, especially on downhills early in a race. I see most people fly down these things. With their early race adrenaline and their fast downhill pace, they HAVE GOT BE running about 1:30 per mile faster than they intend to. Great post.
    Jim recently posted..Route 66 Tulsa Marathon ReviewMy Profile

  2. says

    i have taken way too many races out too fast, but I am learning! I have to keep reminding myself in that first mile to run my own race, let them run theirs. So hard sometimes. That first mile never does feel hard, it always seems to catch up with me around mile 3.
    Christy recently posted..Ramblings and a FitDeck WinnerMy Profile

  3. says

    Hey, I resemble all of these bullet points!

    Ha! Actually, I love to hammer it for the first half mile and get ahead of the scrum. Then I will usually slow and find my pace. A couple of times in the past I have failed to slow down and it has hurt like hell.

    On Thursday we are doing a Turkey Trot, I am considering going out like Seabiscuit and seeing how long I can hold on. It is a 5mi race so I am guessing the epic blow up will occur around mile 4!
    Jeff recently posted..Random Shit …My Profile

  4. says

    This is a fantastic post, and it came right at the perfect time for me. I’m legitimately nervous about starting CIM too fast (after tapering, and being at sea level). But if there’s any chance of me BQing, then I can’t be an idiot and let me legs get ahead of myself too early. Slow start. Slow start. Slow start.
    Just Run With It recently posted..Taper madness?My Profile

  5. says

    im probably in the minority on this one, but i usually go out too slow bc i try to “save” my energy for the last 6 miles. so now i have to work on starting faster and closer to goal pace rather than farting around too much!

  6. says

    I started out too fast last month @ Cape Cod. The smartest thing I did, however, was back off from running with another girl. We seemed to be at the same pace, but I realized I couldn’t keep that pace AND finish well, so I let her go. Later, somewhere around mile 23, I passed her. She was walking. I was not.

    Moral of the story: I still started out too fast, but I reeled it in enough (and at the right time) to salvage my race.
    Lisa recently posted..Think Pink (a race report)My Profile

  7. says

    I know it isn’t the right way to do things but I kind of like to start out a little fast. Not for a mile or anything but long enough to kind of break free of the crowd and find my own space.

  8. says

    i have definitely done this (way too much!) in the past! i finally learned earlier this spring/summer — i let people ‘go’ ahead of me in the first mile of a race, only to find myself reeling many of them back in a mile or two later, and gaining a few others here and there as the race went on. it definitely pays off to “chill out” at the start and run your own race.

  9. says

    My two best PRs have come from races that I started out really slow in. My 10k PR had a 5 plus min first k yet I finished in 46:29 and my half marathon PR started with a 6 min k (1:42) Running slower at the start can pay real dividends.
    Char recently posted..Wednesday WorkoutMy Profile

  10. says

    Great list! Historically I’m probably in the camp of going out too fast during races. One cure that I seemed to discover was getting a garmin that monitors my heartrate. Then I just run until my heartrate seems to get close to what I want to keep it at during the race. It is a forced way to slow myself down. Now I would say that I run most races at either even or negative splits.

    One of my favorite funny memories of a race that it seemed like everyone went out too fast was during a resolution 5 mile run – when the gun went off my friend said “what are you guys running, a 800 meter race?” The pace was way too fast by much of the crowd, haha
    Nelly recently posted.."You are a nice guy."My Profile

  11. says

    My first marathon I went out in 7:30’s…no lie. It was 1996 and I was young. I hit the 10-mile mark in 75 minutes. I hit the half in about 1:40. And then OMG. The “holy shit”s started. I went from rockstar to miserable by mile 15 and spent the next 11.2 miles getting more and more miserable :( And I didn’t run for 6 months after that race… I HATED running.

    The second one was much more successful… and FUN :)
    XLMIC recently posted..The Ruby SlippersMy Profile

  12. says

    Been there. Done that. Bought the t-shirt. I am a CHAMPION at starting too fast and paying for it later.

    I have come to realize that I like the races better where I have a slower time but finish strong instead of the faster races where I pray that I will die at the end.

    These are great reminders!

  13. says

    Love this post. I’m good at starting slow and pacing myself but always find it very hard to get other people to do this. Will use your list to remind myself and others why we take it easy the first half or more to run a great race in the end.
    Johann recently posted..Charity AnnouncementMy Profile

  14. says

    My first official races I started out way too fast and paid for it by the end of the run.
    These days I try to start a bit in the back but still it’s difficult not too start to fast. That’s why I keep checking my pace in the first miles a lot and keep telling myself to slow down. Once I’ve got the right pace I can relax and enjoy the race and I don’t check my watch that often anymore.
    Fran recently posted..Monday November 21, 2011: The mishmash editionMy Profile

  15. says

    Totally great reminder. I should bookmark this and re-read before my 10 miler in Feb. What kills me is that everyone takes off at the gun. And you are there all trying to keep your crap together but wanting to not be left behind. In the rare times I keep my head, I actually pass a lot of those people later…in the times I don’t, people I passed pass me back. Great post!
    Mandy recently posted..Wagging Wednesday: Jumping for JoyMy Profile

  16. says

    this is a great post! i don’t think we can ever be reminded of this too much. especially in the marathon, it is so important. i’m really working on the negative split racing thing – with both of my marathons this fall i’m pretty sure that i went out too fast … i was running my goal pace and should have run those first several miles much slower. it wasn’t “crazy” fast but not according to plan, either. i PR’d both times but know that if i am going to get my BQ this spring i need to have a solid race pace strategy and STICK TO IT. thanks for the great tips and reminders!!
    jessica recently posted..Rock My Running World: Meet MeghanMy Profile

  17. says

    Great post! I worked HARD last year to become a negative split distance runner. I used a lot of those tips… amazing how slow those early miles feel, but it’s TRUE. And you will always make up that time on the back half.
    marlene recently posted..Wednesday WheelsMy Profile

  18. says

    I have been guilty of going out too fast a couple of times. One thing that I’ve found that helps is to line up with a pace group or toward the back so that there are fewer people passing me in the first mile or so and causing me to stop running my own race.
    Raquelita recently posted..On ThankfulnessMy Profile

  19. says

    My 5K PR sits nestled inside my first ever half marathon. How’s that for stupid moves and adrenaline mixed together?? Yep. I was FULL OF RUN, but not by mile 8. I was toast. I’ve taught myself how to calm down and negative split. I have a 5K tomorrow and I fear the worst. Since I’ve been so use to doing long runs, I’ve taught my body to warm up for a mile or two first. We shall see!!
    Coy recently posted..Thankful for more than Indians helping PilgrimsMy Profile

  20. says

    Such great tips! I am very guilty of going out to fast but the more experienced I get as a runner the more comfortable I am getting with starting slow.

    Running my first 5k in 6 months tomorrow and have no idea how to pace a freaking 5k! Yikes, I am glad I read this because it reminded me that no matter how short the distance is you can still burn out if you start too fast.
    Rachelle recently posted..Beat The Holiday BulgeMy Profile

  21. says

    I am sp bad at that.
    that post …I feel you wrote that for ME
    yes yes just for me…! :) I kid of course
    but this is my number one mistake and I know I do it and I tell myself to not do it and then paf….I do it again
    watch me tomorrow though: negative splits I am going for that.,
    Caroline recently posted..Thankfully Alive!My Profile

  22. says

    Needed that advice! I have a marathon Saturday that’s doubling as a long training run and the last thing I need to do is tear out of the gates and feel like trash the rest of the day. My concern is that this race has a 5k that starts at the same time – I’m afraid I’ll follow the 5k crowd and my first 3 miles will be too fast.
    gracie recently posted..Skip day and health screeningMy Profile

  23. says

    Both as a swimmer and as a runner, I’ve always had the problem of starting off too conservatively and having too much left in the tank at the end… to the extent that when I was in high school and had plateaued in the 100 fly, my dad (who knew nothing about swimming beyond having watched me do it for several years), said, “why don’t you just start faster?” Sounds like something I would have been able to think of on my own, but at the next meet, I dropped more than 2 seconds…
    Abby @ Have Dental Floss, WIll Travel recently posted..Philadelphia Marathon 2011: “The Best Time of Your Life”My Profile

  24. says

    Oh man was this me in my last marathon! My big goal for my next one should simply be to NOT DO THAT again. I will keep your advice in mind. I should probably paint it on my arm instead of split targets.
    Terzah recently posted..Got ‘Er DoneMy Profile