Saturday, September 1, 2012
For the Youth
In the archives I found a copy of a handout I gave to the cross country runners I coached just prior to the start of their competitive season. It's purpose was to inform,instruct,calm and instill confidence,everything a coach must do before races.
It's my hope that what follows may be a help to you or simply a reminder of some things you may have forgotten. Ideally,it can be something the younger runners can use. So many enter races overly anxious and things too often do not go as well as they could because of that anxiousness.
First of all,everyone,I mean everyone,the fastest and the slowest are nervous before a race. The key is to control your nervousness and adrenalin so that you can run YOUR race, not a race that is determined by fear and anxiety.A runner that runs smart can beat a better runner that runs stupid. The majority of runners(over 50% H.S.) run stupid, they go out too fast and either die or struggle to hang on to the finish. You guys won't be running dumb. The emphasis is on running the second half of your race faster than the first! Except for possibly(?) three runners in our league, everyone fades to some degree in the last part of their race. How do I know?I know from watching years of competition at every level of high school racing. It's as predictable as the sun rising and setting.
As your race starts competitors go out fast for a good place in the pack,don't run on the outside,run on the inside.Settle into a pace that is comfortable for you,if you get the feeling you can't keep it up then you are running too fast. Throughout the race you should be making observations about your competitors, but most importantly,you are telling yourself to stay relaxed. That means breathing comfortably and deeply,not taking short,choppy breaths. You are also telling yourself to relax your shoulders and arms, stay loose.
Yes, you can allow your competitors to get or gain yards during the early stages of your race,what is 15 to 30 yards in a race that may be 2.5 or 3.1 miles long? As you will see,more often than not,these runners will come back to you in the latter stages of a race.
Pass your opponents with authority!Surge by them,when people are fading this is even more discouraging(mentally).When you turn a corner, or go into an area where those runners behind you can't see you for a few moments,throw in a surge so when these runners see you again they will recognize that they have lost further ground on you. In the latter part of a race this tactic is especially effective.
At the end of a race, 95% of the runners are just looking to hang on or maintain, they are ready to be passed.
Assess your condition, know the right time to make your final stretch drive. Notice I don't say kick,anyone who runs like a sprinter in the last 50 yards could have started his final surge much sooner. Remember,it is essential to think relaxed,no tension in your shoulders,think about using your arms more and lifting your knees slightly.
Finally,nobody has been offered the quality of training you guys have.Remember this, as the season progresses you are going to get stronger and faster. You have trained in hard conditions and surfaces while others either took days off or trained inside. Patience and persistence are the keys,don't get discouraged,let downs are only temporary if and when they do occur. Every run and race is a learning experience.