Distance running is, in large part, about restraint; finding that magic pace which gets you to the finish as quickly as possible, but not so fast you fall apart before you get there. The first time you complete any particular distance, you’re likely to be staggering and stumbling across the chalk, but after a few times, you may begin to feel that surge of adrenalin when the banner comes into view, and be tempted to pull out the stops and surge across, the theme from Chariots of Fire resonating inside your head.
While some running authorities discourage a final sprint, I say ‘go for it.’ Reward that restraint by finishing strong – after all, as a mid-pack runner, your most-likely pay-off is in your own feelings, not a podium, so why not live the dream?
If you Divided and Conquered your run, you’ll know when you’ve reached the last 10% (about 1/3 mile for a 5K, half a mile for a 10K, 1 to 1 ½ mile for half marathon, and 3 miles for a full). When you do, think about building the pace gradually from there to the finish. To avoid injury (or an early flare-out), avoid a sudden shift to full-on sprint. Instead, accelerate gradually, moving those tired feet just a bit faster, then another bit, then faster still, so that in the final hundred feet or yards, you’re splurging every bit of energy you’ve got left, soaking in the cheers and applause of strangers, and knowing you have given it your all.
A slow, gradual start, a steady-state cruising speed for most of the distance, and a gradual acceleration to the line, can make for personal satisfaction, whatever the clock reads!