7 Ways to Make Sure You Do Not Slow Down in a Race

Now, first let me say that this post was hard.

Steve and I put our heads together and tried to come up with these, but we both had the same idea; learn to listen to the rhythm of your body.

Unfortunately, I know to most people that does not make any sense, and is almost impossible to understand until one day it clicks and you just “get it”. This is not really something that can be taught, so before we begin. I want to ask all of you to start approaching this with an open mind. You CAN do this, you just have to WANT to do it, and be committed to doing it.

I know the title of the post may be slightly deceiving as I am asking you to slow down (but the title says not to)…..but I am encouraging you to slow down at the beginning, rather than the end. You will lose less time that way and run a faster overall time.

Those of you who tried running without looking at your watch all had successful runs last week, and that was further evidence that a lot of it is intuition. You just have to try it, and trust yourself as much as you possibly can. That is still the single best way to learn to race correctly is to listen to your body, and yes, that is only possible if you cover up that watch*!!!!

That being said, if you tried the covering up your watch trick a few times, and gave the starting slower process a few honest tries, but still ended up going too fast and blowing up, then you are definitely starting to go too fast. Here is our best advice on how to start slower:

*other than tip 3 ๐Ÿ™‚

If you have trouble with slowing down in the middle of a race, elite runner Tina Muir explains how to prevent that from happening and run faster by being consistent.

Practice your pacingย in workouts

If you have a habit of going out too fast, but you know the consistent pace you need to run to reach your goal. Take some workouts as race simulators, and plan to run your race pace. Have a friend come help you, take off your watch, and run the repeats guessing what you think race pace is.

After each rep, have your friend tell you what time you ran for that repeat, and if you are too fast, slow it down on the next one.

Once you get it right, take a mental note of how it feels at that pace. How fast you are covering the ground, how your breathing sounds, how your arms are moving. Try to take in as many cues as you can, so you recognize that when you are in a race.

Prove to yourself that consistency works

This is a fantastic one from my wonderful coaching husband. If you are still not a believer in the power of running consistent pacing for a race, I want you to try something:

Take a day to run 2xย 1 mile repeats. You will need to use your watch for this one (or get a loved one to help). Go to a track, or somewhere you can see 400m markers. Run the first mile “positive” by taking your race pace per mile, dividing it by 4, and then running the first 400m 15% faster than that number.

For example:

If your race pace is a 9:00 mile (540 seconds), that is 2:15 per 800 (135 seconds)

135 seconds x .85 (100%-15%) = 115 seconds

Therefore run the first 400 at 115 seconds for the first 400m, then 135 seconds for 2 laps (800m), and then the last 400m in 150 seconds. That gives you a 9:00 mile (540 seconds).

Note: This should be one continuous mile! No rest!

Now, run the second mile evenly, running 135 seconds per 400 (or whatever your pace is) for the entire mile.

Tell me which one you feel better in? No, really, if you try this, I want to hear in the comments ๐Ÿ™‚ (And if you need help figuring out numbers for this, let me know).

Most people will come back saying they felt better in the second mile, because your body is able to get into a rhythm (and you understand how your race pace feels- bonus!).

Hopefully, that tip alone is enough to prove it to you, but if you need more suggestions here you go ๐Ÿ™‚

Start slower than you think you need to

Give yourself the first 1-2 minutes, and then force yourself slow down. A lot. Slow down enough to where you think you are going too slow for a race.

Remember that on race day you have all this adrenaline rushing through your body, and everything seems easy for that reason.

If your race pace is 9:00 per mile, then 9:00 per mile is going to feel like jogging the first 5 miles of a marathon, so for the first few miles, put yourself in a position that you feel like you are jogging.

Like I said, it is better to start off too slow, feel strong at the halfway point, and pick it up towards the finish. You are likely going to be able to shave off more time (and feel better doing it) in the second half of the race, than you will gain if you use the time in the bank theory.

Change the settings on your GPS watch

PLEASE get rid of the current pace screen.

Firstly, it means nothing and is wildly inaccurate. Secondly, it is so easy to dictate your run by that number. When you race, on the screen, all you should have is the time and distance screen up.

I would also turn off the beeping, so you are not tempted to look at it, and as GPS watches are inaccurate, if you cannot resist the urge to look at it, chances are you are not going to see the pace of the last mile.

*Check your watch 1/2 mile in

Steve recommends looking at your watch at the 800m mark of a race.

If you are too fast by more than a few seconds, back off. Use that 800m as a gauge to see where you are at. If you have turned your beep and pace off like I recommended above, and you may need to use the mile marker, but I would use the clock.

If you are more than a few seconds too fast. Think about how you feel right at that moment, then slow it down. You will feel like that again in the last few miles as you pick it up, but for now, that is too fast, and you need to save your strength for later in the race.

Check in at random distances

Rather than looking at your watch or GPS, use the clocks out on the course to check in a few times during the race. I would sayย 2-4 times in a half or full marathon, and 1 more time at a race less than a 10k.

Chose a random distance like 2 miles in a 10k, or 7 miles in a marathon so you have nothing to compare it against. Have a time set up in your mind that you do not want to be any faster than, and if you are faster than that number, again, make sure you take note of how you feel at that speed, then slow it down.

That way you know how your body feels at that faster pace, so you will be able to recognize how it feels if you happen to creep it down again.

Listen to your breathing

This is the one I use the most myself in the first few miles of a race.

I listen to everyone around me, and they are usually huffing and puffing. If that is you, that little voice in your head has already started saying to you that you are going to fast, you are already breathing too hard, and that little seed of doubt in your mind will start to grow.

Now imagine if your breathing was calm and collected.

You hear everyone around you huffing and puffing, but you feel strong, smooth, and ready to go.

Would that not help your confidence?

Yes ๐Ÿ™‚ It will, and if you make yourself run at a pace that you are able to breathe very comfortably for those first few miles, you will be able to kick it down better towards the end. I put that into practice at the Army 10 miler, and it paid off big time, hopefully I will be able to use it again this weekend ๐Ÿ™‚


And my friends, that is my best advice I could give you. Like I have mentioned, it comes naturally to me, so we really had to put our heads together to come up with this advice, but hopefully it helps you. You can try 1-2 of these, and see if they are enough on their own, and if you still keep making the same mistake, try adding more of them in.

It really will pay off big time if you commit to this, and yes, there is always the situation where it is better to go out and hold on, especially if you are fighting for a finishing position within a race, but for most of us, most of the time, we are out there battling ourselves, and that is where this advice comes into play.

Give it a go, and tell me what you think. I really want to know ๐Ÿ™‚


Are these helpful? How do you keep yourself slower at the start to finish faster?

Wonder why you get slower rather than faster?

I'll show you how to practice pacing to run faster (and feel better) in your next race.

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  • SO helpful! The biggest thing for me is not starting out too fast. I am getting much better at it and look forward to seeing how I do in my next race, whenever that is. I have to pick one lol

  • This is precisely what I needed to read today!!! I’m using mile 18 of the marathon as my “halfway” point and I’m allowed to GO FOR IT after that point. However, it’s going to take a lot of restraint to back off and run conservatively in those first several miles. At this point, I’m very good at NOT looking at my watch so that will not be an issue. As you know, all I really need to focus on now is believing I can do it! Thanks Tina!!!

  • Perfect timing for these reminders for me! Your posts are so helpful, thanks!

  • Chelsie Smith
    October 30, 2015 6:31 am

    Since your post about running without looking at your watch, I’ve been having such an amazing time while out there!! I’ll admit, I still peek on the mile, but not looking throughout has made such a huge difference. My entire mentality has shifted, so now when I come back I actually feel relaxed and nowhere close to as pent-up as I had been. I simply cannot thank you enough, Tina! Going to keep working on it (and I’m going to turn off the beep that marks the mile soon!), but I love this new (to me) way of running.
    I think being able to run by feel requires trusting your body. I’ve been thinking about it while out there, and I feel like I was always checking because I didn’t trust my body to be going at the pace I wanted it to be, and didn’t trust that I would get faster without running at the pace I wanted to be. I think others might feel this way, and so it takes a large amount of effort to give up that control they need to feel while out there. (Or at least I hope others do, so I’m not alone in feeling this way.)
    I’m very, very much looking forward to running more Tina-method runs and races in the future. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Great reminders Tina. I can’t wait to see you this weekend!

  • Soren Brockdorf
    October 30, 2015 7:33 am

    Great article. I have to check my pace at corners, hills, and aid stations too. It seems like my pace always slows at these points and have to always remember to pick it up just a tad after these points (usually it’s 30 seconds). The beginning of a race is so hard for age groupers. This weekend I tried to start a little farther back not to get out too fast but I got stuck on a narrow start going way to slow.

  • This is so what I do. Love that I run like an elite ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Thanks so much! I will definitely be trying some of these out in my runs over the next few weeks. I have been running without looking at my watch this week on my easy runs, but I want to also do some of these workouts–like the race pace practice runs and the mile repeats. I’m excited to work on this because I think it will really help me.

  • These are great tips and I plan to incorporate all of them. I have heard the tip about checking your watch shortly into the race. Someone told me to check 1/4 mile in for a 5K, but I agree 1/2 mile in would work better for a longer distance race (and would work for a 5K too).

    In the 5K I PRed recently, I tried to make the beginning of the race, effort-wise, feel a little too slow. My paces were all even, but by the end, I was passing everyone who’d slowed down… which in a 5K, is most people. I think that gave me a mental boost in that last mile to help me hold onto that pace.

  • This is so helpful! I’m running the Richmond Marathon by feel and since it’s only my second marathon, trying to figure out how I should “feel” at each part is hard. I definitely want to start very slow!

  • I will be putting this to the test tomorrow!!!!

  • For the first half of a race I repeat the mantra “hold back, hold back, hold back” with each step. Honestly? The hardest part of a marathon for me is holding back. Because if I get all caught up in the excitement of it all and start out too fast then I crash and burn HARD later on.

  • This is definitely something I’ve gotten better at with practice- I know what you mean about listening to my breathing and paying attention to how hard my body is working, which is not something I really noticed or understood when I first started running. Great info!

  • Laura Anderson
    October 30, 2015 11:30 am

    Definitely great tips Tina! I think the biggest thing that has helped me is that I changed the settings on my watch. For Erie I made sure I only had overall time and average pace but not distance or current pace to be seen. This really helped me focus more on the time and in general I felt like I was stressing less mid-race (not seeing current pace)

  • Angie @ Pace with Grace Blog
    October 30, 2015 11:32 am

    This is really helpful and makes a lot of sense in needing to really practice tuning in to your body to ultimately run faster. I can definitely relate to the breathing part. I am good at gauging where my pace is at just by tuning into my breath. Thanks for sharing, Tina!

  • Great tips as always. All my best races have been when I’ve started slower. It’s hard during a marathon because you see all these people steaming past you and you just have to hold your nerve and think “stick with your pace, you’ll catch them later” and invariably you do.

  • So much great info. I am running a 10K tomorrow and honestly should PR based on my 5K last week and half the week before times…but I have a very difficult time with the distance so am hoping to really tune in to how I am feeling. I barely looked at my watch during my 5K last week and beat my projected time by 45 or so seconds just running intuitively. Hoping to repeat this week!

  • These are such helpful tips! I pace most of my runs by effort and don’t look at my watch during (and never set it to show current pace, just time and distance), but I need these tips to help me race smarter. Thanks Tina!

  • Lisa@runningoutofwine
    November 1, 2015 7:14 pm

    I definitely think that starting slower helped me with my last half-marathon! And I realized during that race that i couldn’t rely on my watch because the mileage was really off. I was able to get a general sense of how fast I was going but I really had to rely on how I was feeling. Thanks for these tips!

  • I so agree with ignoring your GPS sometimes. I was really strong on my most recent half, last month and once I was going and knew I wasn’t running too fast, I didn’t look at my watch again for the entire race. The results? I ran a 3 minute PR, and felt so good the whole time. In the last 4 km, I told myself I knew I had more to give and went for it, I didn’t let the watch tell me if I did or didn’t based on the pace. Definitely worth having a look at how much one relies on the GPS as opposed to how we feel! Thanks for all the great tips:)

  • Sandra Laflamme
    November 2, 2015 8:29 pm

    Oh such great tips and yes why is it so hard to slow yourself down when you know your pace is too crazy in the beginning! It can be so hard to tame the adrenaline. I am loving all of this advice!!!

  • This is awesome! Thank you so much. I will definitely be trying out some of these tips!!

  • This is so great to read today, Tina (even though I’m a few days late – ha!); I have a half marathon on Saturday and I’ve really enjoyed your recommendations. I’m going to do my best to resist looking at the “current pace;” I’ll keep that off of my screen and I’m going to try to tune in to my body a bit more. Thanks so much!

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