Being able to finish strong can make all the difference on your outlook of your race. The end of a race can be a mix of good and bad feelings. Some feel exuberant even refreshed at the end being in sight and find that second wind. Others just can't seem to make it across that finish line soon enough.
I know that even if I feel like I have absolutely no energy left, if I finish strong by throwing in a sprint at the end the race ends on such a happy, high note! Besides, it feels great to pick off some of those runners at the end! :)
1. Add on strides to the end of your easy training runs.
Strides are simply picking up the pace for about 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Adding on strides at the end of your run when you are already tired and your body is already under stress and fatigue will help to create stronger adaptions in your muscles and will also help you learn how to draw on extra energy reserves so that you can finish strong.
To use this technique try picking up the pace for 30 seconds to 2 minutes segments for 3-5x total at the end of two of your easy or shorter training runs during the week. Don't start off tacking strides onto long runs or speed workouts. Build up gradually by asking your body to kick into higher gear after an easy workout and then try adding some after a long run after you have added strides to shorter runs for about 4 weeks.
2. Put a 30 second to 1 minute kick in at the end of your long, easy training runs.
Unlike strides, this is just a one time sprint at the very end of your long run. Obviously if you are feeling completely fatigued you should forego adding on this extra sprint but sometimes just picking up the pace a little bit at the end is all your body needs to feel that second wind. Just remember to keep this sprint short at the end of a long run. This will help you find that extra energy at the end of your race and you will cross that finish line feeling like a success.
3. Learn how to pace yourself throughout the race.
Pacing is going to be critical in the success of your marathon or half marathon particularly if you are racing for competition or for a time goal. It just takes one mile at the wrong pace to completely break you and wreck your ability to finish strong! Therefore you must learn how and at what paces you should be running at!
4. Practice that pace.
Knowing what pace you need to be running during a race to meet a time goal will only get you so far. You need to practice at that pace. And not just that pace. (Hence the Runner's Pace Kit) There is technique to pacing yourself to learning what that pace feels like, to mess up and make mistakes before race day so that you can finish strong and successfully. This all comes with training yourself but you must learn through trial and error otherwise it's not going to happen.
5. Train under stress by doing speed workouts.
Speed workouts train your body to go faster. Obviously. Placing yourself under the stress of a speed workout is going to help you become stronger and faster. If it's not challenging you aren't going to improve. I suggest scheduling about an 8 week cycle of speed training right before a race. Perform a speed session at least once a week but no more than 2 times a week. See this Page for Speed Training Tips & Workouts.
6. Run faster than your goal pace.
A simple speed workout to use in your training for the 8 weeks before you run your race is to run faster than your goal race pace (about 10 seconds faster) for 1-2 training runs per week at 4 to 6 miles in length. The faster pace than your goal pace will place your body under added stress that will help to make those stronger adaptions. It will be uncomfortable but the goal is to make that goal race pace feel even easier come race day.
7. Pick your knees up. Focus on your arms.
When you want to go faster and stronger you need to think more about your form. When you are running for endurance your form is going to be different than when you are sprinting. When you see that finish line or even just want to slightly pick up the pace think about picking your knees up higher off the ground. The higher you pick the knees up the faster you will go since you will be pushing more force into the ground. So if you want to go as fast as possible you will want to bring that knee up as high as possible. If you simply want to just pick up the pace just lift your knee up a little bit more.
The same goes with your arms. If you are running a marathon and focusing on distance you will want to reduce the amount of that arm swing so that you are barely moving it and keeping it in towards the center of your body. If you are in that final sprint or doing an interval run then you will want to actually pump it. Doing so will help to create more momentum and push you further and faster along and help you finish strong.
And there you have it! Don't feel like you have to do all of these training tips. Just pick one and focus on it for one race and then add on to that or try a new technique for your next race!