Basic Rules of Successful Running

by Seth Proctor
Track Shack Social Medial Intern/Competitive runner from Edgewater High School and Florida State University

I remember back in my days as a high school and college athlete always seeing that one guy or that one team that was always racing to the top of every podium when the racing season first opened up. Everyone was always pumping them as the favorite to win whatever title was up for grabs at the season’s end, and you were stuck running behind huffing and puffing without any glory. It just didn’t seem fair. Well, at least until the final races of the season that is. Almost without fail these athletes would suddenly find themselves struggling along in the middle of the pack, running on flat legs, and wondering why a slew of runners they had never seen before were streaming by them.

So why did this happen? Why were these formerly invincible harriers finding themselves languishing in anonymity? Because they didn’t follow a few of the basic rules of successful running. To successfully carry yourself over a season of races, such as our own Track Shack Running Series, or to perform at your biggest target race you must a) choose your events carefully and b) be rested and have your body and mind ‘peaked’ for them.

When looking at what events to consider doing it’s important you consider what distance you’ll be racing. For example, if you want to run the OUC Orlando ½ Marathon it would not be a good idea plan on being able to run hard, and well, for about 14-21 days afterwards. You may be able to complete the distance (especially if your next race is a 5k or 10k), but your body won’t be ready to give its best effort.

This same concept of stress and rest plays into those looking to race a series of shorter races. If you want to run a series of 5k to 10k races over a longer season, it is important to make sure you give your body ample time to recover from each effort. This is made more complicated by the fact that you’ll also be trying to fit in training around each race to help you improve over the racing season. My advice would be to aim to race these shorter events no more than once every 10 to 14 days. In setting up your racing this way you’ll allow yourself time to recover between each event while also giving you time to do the required training to continue improving and not be stuck in a cycle of race-recover-race of racing every weekend.

Equally important to your success as a racer is to try and pick out particular ‘key’ races you’d like to be your best at. If your goal race is a ½ Marathon to Marathon, then of course that is going to really dominate your goals list. However, if you’re racing a series of shorter races, it is also a good idea to aim to be at your peak for one or two of them. These races are usually chosen as being the latter ones in your racing season as it is theoretically when you will be at your fittest. Other considerations such as which course gives you the best chance of setting a PR, or sets you up to take down a competitor you’ve been dueling with – or even if it’s an event where your family will be at and you want to impress them!

To peak for a race, make sure that you’ve done the training necessary to harden your body to the rigors of your race pace and that you’ve allowed yourself to rest up as much as possible (both mentally and physically). In your final weeks of preparation for one of these key races aim to drop your overall training volume while simultaneously upping the amount of quality work you do at and below race pace.

Once you’ve gotten all of this good training in, avoided unnecessary racing in the lead up to your goal race(s), allowed the body to rest, and mentally psyched yourself up to compete you’ll be ready to go out and set some big PRs! Good luck, and see you on the roads, Orlando!

Seth is a longtime runner who recently finished his NCAA eligibility at Florida State University where he lettered four years as a varsity track and cross-country athlete. On the track Seth is a two time NCAA Track & Field qualifier, All-ACC on the track at 10,000m outdoors, 5,000m indoors, and a winner of the prestigious Tyson Invitational in Arkansas over 5,000m. As a harrier Seth is All-ACC in Cross-Country, a three time NCAA Cross-Country Championships qualifier where he helped lead the ‘Noles to 2nd, 12th, and 5th place finishes at the championships, three times All-South Region, and an Academic All-American.

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