Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Know Your Course….

…literally and philosophically.

When I ran cross country in High School one of the things we always had to do, without fail, was walk the course before the start of the race. Today it hit me, in HS I just thought it was part of our torture, part of the ploy to make teenagers suffer, get up earlier than necessary, and to warm up. But today, I realized the true importance of walking the course before you run it in a race. I have my neighborhood figured out, already. It’s not hard when you can only squeeze 3.64 miles out of it by hitting every cul-de-sac and street. But it has some nice little inclines and declines. When I was running with the Hubs, the time I ran as fast as I could (HERE), I decided to use the hills to my advantage. I new where to turn around and how to use the downhills to bring my pace down, and where the incline was and how long that hill was and just how to run it so that I could use it all to my advantage.

Sure I have driven courses before but really that was just so that I could see it and get a feel for it, but never to study it. To analyze it. To create a plan of attack. To strategize! Now I don’t really think I would truly study 26.2 miles and try to optimize the up and downhills. Lets be honest, I am just trying to survive. But for 13.1 or less I think knowing the course is crucial, critical to doing your best (I am sure it is for a race of any distance but I am just not there yet for longer race strategizing) ! I have never looked at a course map before a race, except to see the over all elevation or over view of the ups and downs, but I have never looked at it and thought about how I would use the downs or prepare for the ups. I never really thought about it. All I knew was that there was a 1 in a jillion chance I would be first and leading the pack, so I didn’t need to know the route. But now, now I know better. It is more that leading the pack, it is about using every inch of a course to your advantage! I am so ready to begin racing shorter races and improve my overall racing strategies, fitness and pace. But for now I will study the 26.2 miles that is the Vegas course. Let’s see if it helps.

As for knowing your course philosophically, what is your course? Where are you headed? Where has your running taken you in 2010? Where will it take you 2011? What has it pulled you out of or gotten you into? For me, when I think of my course I envision a nice sail boat on the open water, going wherever it is the wind takes me. I can put my sails up or take them down…I can drop my anchor or I can follow a set course…

Greeting card: Sailing at sunset

image taken from HERE


  1. I totally agree with this! I think it makes a huge difference in a race if you know the course ahead of time. In my triathlons, I always tried to bike the course at least once so I knew what to expect. It's the same way with longer running races. If you know what's coming, you'll be better prepared!
    As far as my course for this coming year..it will be a whole other adventure for me! I just signed up for Ironman AZ! :)

  2. I think I do better not knowing too much about the course. Sometimes it can play with my mind in a negative way when I think I know where the "hard" parts are going to be. Or if I re-run a tough course I can sometimes allow the negative talk to keep me from pushing because I think the course is "hard, so I can't run it fast"

  3. I ran the Vegas half last year, so I can tell you that the first part of the course is flat and fast.

  4. i agree i think knowing a course can only help but i never realized that till running with a coach. i also did not believe in warming up before i race b/c i thought u need to SAVE all your energy - however i can now see how much it helps and you need to do it, to perform your best. my course......olympic size tri this summer .....working on postivite thoughts and sending good energy out to the world.

  5. Great post! We used to have to walk the course, too. In fact, we'd walk/jog the course to get to know it and then run the race. I never thought of applying that now. Duh.

    Good luck in Vegas!

  6. From what I've heard about Vegas, it's going to be FLAT with the exception of a couple of bridges. I'm more worried about the tangents. I so suck at that.

  7. It's funny how I was IN Vegas a couple of years ago, and I honestly couldn't remember what the terrain was like without looking at the elevation charts and such. You just don't pay attention to stuff like that when you don't think you'll be running it! Same goes for Nashville. I live so close to Nashville and have been a gazillion times. But when I signed up for the CMM 1/2 and heard everyone talking about how hilly it was going to be I was like, "Y'all are nuts. Nashville isn't hilly." HA! I swear, I never paid attention to it until we were walking around downtown the night before the race.

  8. I like to know the course and when I can I go check it out before the race. I like to know where the hard parts are!! Next year...well my first half marathon in January! Will not be able to see the course before the race for that one..


You're pretty much awesome!!


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